Martin Luther often paced around his room at night, when the lights were out and the devil’s voice began to torment him. He would speak out loud to his enemy, scorning him for introducing thoughts of silence and comfort when a loud, gritty resilience was necessary to uphold the Reformation he had begun. At least according to the movie released a few years ago (I don’t claim to be an expert on church history), Luther was rough around the edges, dissatisfied with the status quo, and ruthlessly loyal to the God of the scriptures. Was he sane? Probably not, but sanity, by necessity, could not be a prerequisite for a mission that would pit a lowly monk against the Roman church.
John the Baptist was a man’s man, a desert dweller with a camelhair cloak and a thick leather belt. He lived off the land, and despite his disheveled look and his affinity for bugs, people revered him as a prophet. His wild voice called for repentance amid a chorus of civilized, Pharisaical voices screaming righteousness over grace and ritual over reconciliation. He was the courier for the Messiah, the messenger of the one to come, and his mission was not one of appeasement. He knew his Lord from the time he was in the womb, and even though he had his doubts, he steadfastly proclaimed the word of God even in the face of the religious establishment of the day.
These men are not the tame, silent little believers we have come to respect in this day and age. In fact, their tactics and words may seem offensive, bordering on repulsive at times. But they had these things in common: they were as fiercely devoted to Christ as they were unconventional in their methods, and both prepared the way for the grace of Christ to overshadow the empty religious practices of their time.
One of my mentors once told me that to do anything for God, you have to be a little bit messed up in the head. The more I read the Bible and study the people I admire in the faith, the more I believe that it’s true. Are you crazy enough to usher Jesus into your sphere of influence?
Photo: The sun goes down over the Dead Sea, in a desert region similar to the one John the Baptist looked at every night. By Trevor Williams.