Reformation Indulgence could have a couple meanings. I wonder if confronted in the back of church by a basket of candy left over from the weekend’s Trunk or Treat event, what would Martin Luther do? I believe firmly he would eat a piece of candy and offer it his fellow church members! Skittles for all!
This Sunday Reformation Indulgence had a different meaning. We jumped into a little Catholic doctrine and explored the current ways that one could gain a plenary (full) indulgence. Remember any Catholic would be quick to point out that an indulgence is not the same thing as forgiveness of sins. Only God can forgive sins. The indulgence covers the satisfaction that is owed by the sinner. The three parts of penance are: contrition, confession, satisfaction. Contrition – being sorry for sin, and confession – getting that sin off your chest are good, although the Roman Catholic Church made them church law. Satisfaction – making up for the wrong – is no where to be found, nor is the concept of a purgatory where we can finish the satisfaction left undone in this life. It is a very small jump in logic for the Roman Catholic to think, “God will forgive me no matter what. All I need to worry about is making up for the wrong!” That is a dangerous spiritual game to play with God.
With all of this knowledge what should you do when you meet a Catholic friend or neighbor at an upcoming basketball game at the local middle school? 1) Don’t talk about indulgences. 2) Ask – with all Christian care and concern – how that person and God are doing. If someone walked up to you and accused Martin Luther of being an anti-Semite in the wake of the Pittsburg Synagogue shooting, what would you do? Most likely get defensive. Martin Luther was far from perfect – he would have been the first to point that truth out. The same would be true for any Christian. After patiently listening to your Catholic (or any friend) answer how that person and God are doing, offer encouragement with Law and Gospel – sin and grace. One way that helps to organize my thoughts is this process: your story, my story, His story. Let the person speak – for by listening we gain the right to be heard. Tell the reason for the hope that you have. Don’t get crazy. Witness that you know that Jesus loves you. Follow up with details of what Jesus has done where appropriate. Know that you won’t get to tell all or any of the God’s plan depending on your setting and situation. In a loud gym, when you can barely hear the other person, it might be difficult to go into any details about ANY topic. However, you could easily set up another time to meet or simply reaffirm your relationship with a friend. That is to say – the person will walk away from you thinking that you genuinely care for him or her. That is the perfect kind of Reformation Indulgence – one of grace.
Please click HERE for the Bible class slides.