Post-Christian Europe needs followers of Jesus who understand that the Gospel is powerful in itself. We should not hold onto the privileges of old religious structures.
Speaking in Wittenberg on 31 October, the German Chancellor said the Reformation anniversary is “a great opportunity to strengthen the awareness about the Christian roots in our society”.
The Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, visited Wittenberg on 31 October 2017.
‘ALL SPHERES OF LIFE TOUCHED BY REFORMATION’
“With his 95 theses, Luther got a stone rolling which could not be stopped and would change the world forever”, Angela Merkel said addressing the participants at the Reformation Day ceremony.
“Be it politics, law, language, social sciences, arts or culture – there is almost no sphere of life which has not been touched by the Reformation Luther started, and this happened beyond Germany and even beyond Europe”.
Central to the first Reformers was “the freeing message, according to which only by grace and through faith the human being is made just in front of God”, the Chancellor said. “One cannot buy or win God’s grace with works, grace is simply freely given to the believer”.
Luther’s famous hymn, “Almighty Fortress Is Our God”, which was sung at the gathering, “was written in relation to Psalm 46”, the Chancellor explained. Its “central message is: God should and can be our stronghold”.
THE CENTRALITY OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
In her message, Merkel highlighted the need to work for religious freedom everywhere. “I believe the work to promote religious freedom is – be it here or anywhere else in the world – a common task of politics and the churches”, she said.
This does not contradict the separation between church and state, she said. “Our state has the universal commission to respect and protect the value of all people. This includes, in addition to other freedoms, to respect and protect religious freedom”.
“It was with pain that we learnt that tolerance is the basis for a peaceful coexistence in Europe”. This is “the basic principle of every open society. Without tolerance it is not possible to have an open society”.
Merkel added: “Today we experience that, wherever in the world where religious freedom is in bad shape, the social developments is also affected”.
LUTHER’S BIBLE AND EDUCATION
"With the Luther’s Bible translation and the development of a united written German language the Holy Scriptures were made understandable for all of the population for the first time. The Bible and the invention and use of the press gave the people an understandable access to the centrepieces of the faith”, the Chancellor said.
It is more, “with the priesthood of all believers, every Christian could and should become responsible and able communicate the faith. Out of these ideas a new social responsibility developed. Beyond theological questions, education was recognised as an important foundation for all areas of life”.
Merkel closed her speech with the following personal reflection: “We all make mistakes. But I find it liberating that we, while being imperfect, receive God’s grace and love”.
“I am thankful for the great opportunity that we have now in the anniversary of the Reformation, to strengthen the awareness about our Christian roots in our society”.
Read the full speech in German on the official website of the German government.