Remembering a Leader
“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” Heb. 13:7 (NIV)
I believe this Scripture urges us to remember leaders who now rest from their labors and who have joined that great cloud of witnesses. It is right to remember their labors, to consider the impact of their ministry here and the reward they now enjoy, and thus to motivate ourselves to emulate them.
That being said, today is John Calvin’s 500th birthday.
This second-generation reformer has done more than any other theologian, past or present, to shape my theology and my ministry. His writings speak to me in a way that others simply do not. I find in them an unparalleled blend of the scholar’s mind and the pastor’s heart. Many, of course, have subsequently redacted Calvin’s teaching into something that is formal, cold and sterile. You will not find that in Calvin himself. You will find a man absolutely consumed by passion for the glory and majesty of God.
It would be both asinine and arrogant to compare myself to Calvin, but I sometimes think my affinity may relate to a common touchstone—he was trained as a lawyer. William Klempa, Principal Emeritus of Presbyterian College in Montreal, notes, “When Calvin’s father died, he gave up law as a career, but the mental habits of a jurist remained.” I think that’s right, and I love the tightness and lucidity of Calvin’s argumentation.
I will not attempt a biography here, though I do highly recommend you read something of his life. I would simply parrot a single statement from Dr. Brian Armstrong, a Calvin scholar and my history professor in college: “It is impossible to understand the last 500 years of western civilization apart from the influence of John Calvin.” If you will indulge me one last personal reflection, it is also impossible to understand the last 30 years of my life apart from that influence.
Father, thank you for the remembrance of this leader who, being dead, still speaks to me Your word. Help me to consider the outcome of his way of life, and to imitate his faith.