Saturday, April 25, 2009

4-25- The Day Calvin Was Exiled from Geneva

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven. For in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10,11)

Calvin: Paul specifcally warns us we shall suffer not only persecutions but also reproaches because we hope in the living God [1 Timothy 4:10]. Thus, in another passage he bids us walk after his example through ill repute and good repute [2 Corinthians 6:8]. Yet such a cheerfulness is not required of us as to remove all feeling of bitterness and pain. Otherwise, in the cross there would be no forbearance of the saints unless they were tormented by pain and anguished by trouble. If there were no harshness in poverty, no torment in diseases, no sting in disgrace, no dread in death—what fortitude or moderation would there be in bearing them with indifference? But since each of these, with an inborn bitterness, by its very nature bites the hearts of us all, the fortitude of the believing man is brought to light if—tried by the feeling of such bitterness—however grievously he is troubled with it, yet valiantly resisting, he surmounts it. Here his forbearance reveals itself: if sharply pricked he is still restrained by the fear of God from breaking into any intemperate act. Here his cheerfulness shines if, wounded by sorrow and grief, he rests in the spiritual consolation of God. (III.8.8)

Calvin and Farel were kicked out of Geneva (see blog on 4/15) on this date in 1538. The dispute was over the right of magistrates to say that someone should not have communion. Calvin and Farel appealed to a Swiss Protestant Synod in Zurich after they were exiled from Geneva. The synod upheld Calvin’s view. But when Calvin and Farel tried to enter Geneva again, they were met with news that Geneva’s Councils had rejected the synod decision. Calvin was a bit relieved to be leaving Geneva, even though he felt God’s call there. He writes that the days and nights before they left they had been frequently and vigorously insulted. People would sing course songs under their windows. Gun shots even rang out under Calvin’s window. He remembered this until his dying day, recounting it.
Calvin believed pain was real. Unlike some, he didn’t just believe in having a stoic “stiff upper lip.” He didn’t deny the reality of pain. He did not embrace or cherish pain either. Yet, he did not hide from pain. He always chose to do what he perceived to be God’s will- even if it wasn’t comfortable. In our day, in our country, this would be a rare. America chooses comfort and convenience. I just watched a TV show that portrayed the life of a family. The children just sit around and watch TV and play video games all day long. The parents sacrifice to protect their children from hardship and tough choices. They grant their kids whatever they want- cook them their desire, and give them their every whim. This is an effort to show love, but it takes away confidence and also the ability to rely on God in the tough times. At the same time, there are a growing number of people who make fun of believers and Christianity without any social backlash. In some circles and many blogs it is the socially acceptable thing to not just disagree with Christians but to deride them (as many did with Calvin). Our Lord (and Calvin following Him) give us examples of resisting persecution with grace and reliance upon the Father. They did not physically fight back, but resisted by their teachings, by prayer, and reliance upon the Holy Spirit. The results were a resurrection for Jesus, and a calling back from exile for Calvin. In the last 100 years there have been more Christian martyrs than all the other centuries put together (think Soviet gulags, Maoist cultural revolution, the Bonhoeffers and Tenbooms in Nazi Germany, etc.). Tertullian said the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church. That is, wherever Christians have resisted persecution with grace, it has won the people over. So today, let us trust in God, bear our crosses, pray for those who persecute us, and stand up for our faith with grace.

Prayer: Lord, we pray for those who make fun of us. We ask that you would send your Spirit to them to not only convict them, but to draw them to yourself. At the same time, give us strength to resist temptation and persecution. Give us grace, O Lord, to live gracefully for you. Amen.

1 comment:

  1. Have you seen the new resources posted at Among other things, you’ll find links to a 97-volume collection of material written by or about Calvin, including all of his commentaries, the Institutes, 10 biographies, and 20 volumes on the history of Calvinism, among other things. I thought you might be interested: