October 31st, 2017 will be a big day in the Protestant world, especially my Lutheran world. It will mark 500 years since a young priest named Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses in Wittenberg, Germany, the event considered to be the start of the Protestant Reformation. But its hard to call such an anniversary a “celebration.” True, reform was needed and certainly much good came of it, including the Council of Trent. But the splintering of western Christianity – these divisive wounds in the Body of Christ – are now a half of a millennium old. So could Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body play a role in healing those wounds? Could the Theology of the Body help to heal the Body of Christ?
“You’re the Lutheran guy, right? How did you learn about TOB? What do you think about it? How do you use it?” I am asked that a lot when I am at one of the Institute’s classes. The seeds were planted years ago when I read Humanae Vitae, then took NFP classes with my wife, and once heard Christopher West give a talk. And now I use TOB all of the time in my preaching, bible classes and pastoral care. But why am I studying TOB? Because I am searching for answers.
And I don’t think I am alone. In this sexually charged, crazed and confused world in which we live, Protestants of a historic and biblical faith want to know how we can respond. The TOB is what we are looking for. It is a gift to ALL Christians.
At the time of the Reformation the question being debated was, “How am I saved?” Now the issues are, “What does it mean to be human . . . male, female?” I believe John Paul II has given the most compelling, cohesive, and comprehensive vision of our humanity and sexuality. Rather than trying to respond to every issue (new ones seem to emerge every day!), the TOB gives the kind of framework, that, if you have it down, all of the issues fall in place. But even more, the TOB is Good News. It’s about Jesus who has done more than give us moralisms and rules about sex. In his gift of self to his bride, the Church, he has redeemed us and healed us.
My Catholic brothers and sisters: do you know the gift you have in the TOB? If you do, then please share it with your Protestant friends. We are hungry for it. And as you do, I believe there will be a “bonus” gift. I believe TOB can be the bridge we need.
Many of your Protestant friends have some unfair perceptions of you. Maybe you’ve heard a few. Things like, “Catholics have all of this other stuff: Mary, saints, popes. But we are about Jesus.” Or how about this one? “Catholics don’t read their Bibles.
Of course not all Protestants say these things and to be fair Catholics can have unfair perceptions of Protestants, too. But my point is that, of course, those misconceptions aren’t really true about you, and the TOB proves it. Is anything more biblical or more Christ-centered than the TOB?! So when you share the TOB, the more you show its biblical teaching and how Jesus is the center of it all, the more likely your Protestant friends will listen.
And maybe ask questions about your Catholic faith. And you can ask us some. And then we can talk some more. Maybe even pray together. And discover that we have more that we share in common than the things that divide us. We might find that we still have some disagreements. But we may also find out that we have been talking about each other and past each other for 500 years, instead of to each other.
In my own experience at the Institute I love that the people I have met are unapologetic for their Catholic faith, yet equally gracious, welcoming and engaging. After my first course, on the last night when we “shared graces,” I couldn’t help but say this: “If this is the heart of the Catholic Church, I have great hope for the healing of our divisions. I only hope my tradition will respond in the same way.” This Lutheran guy, at least, wants to try.
Living the TOB means the “sincere gift of self,” right? You have such a gift, my friends. Share it with us . . . please.
Rev. Spencer Mielke, is Associate Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Elkhart, IN, and a Theology of the Body Institute Certification student. He has been married for 20 years to his wife, Shelley, and is the father of five children.