I actually like rule books and manuals. When I open a box and start assembling the contents, like a new bicycle, I’ll dig for the instructions and carefully read through them. If we are playing table games on Saturday night with friends and someone makes a questionable move, they might defend it by saying, “I’m pretty sure it’s okay.” I pull out the directions. How can you play a fair game without agreed upon procedures? Maybe this instinct is in my blood.
John Wycliffe, an English scholar, theologian, preacher, and translator followed a rule that labeled him a heretic. As one of the earliest reformers to oppose the medieval church dictating secular power, he became a dissident who fought against abuses coming from Rome. He was nicknamed “The Morning Star of the Reformation,” and his work preceded Martin Luther’s by over 150 years.
Wycliffe held to the belief that the Bible alone is to be our guiding rule of faith. Church traditions, dogmas, and threats can never stand in the place of the Scriptures. The infallibility of the Word of God drove this hated Reformer to translate the Bible into the language of the common people in England. Though his life was repeatedly threatened, this teacher placed a light in his country that could never be extinguished.
The followers of Wycliffe were called Lollards. They were lay preachers who held to the centrality of the Bible as opposed to following the dictates of priests. The term “lollard” is believed to have come from the word “mumbler” and was a derogatory nickname for these rebellious opposers of the established church. John Tewkesbury, a leatherworker who turned to Lollardy, was burned at the stake for possessing Tyndale’s New Testament translation. I am proud to be a descendant of this faithful Protestant.
Wycliffe was never burned at the stake. Once when he almost died, his enemies came to taunt him on his sickbed. But the aged man sat up (with the help of an assistant) and stated, “I shall not die, but live; and again declare the evil deeds of the friars.” It was after this time that he translated and distributed the Bible throughout England. John Wycliffe eventually died of a stroke and years later his bones were exhumed and burned for being a heretic.
To what length are we willing to follow the Word of God as our only source of truth in spiritual matters? Would we gladly give our lives like many of the great reformers in order to possess and proclaim the Scriptures to others? Some willingly lay down in graves to be buried alive. Others sang and preached while the flames of execution rose around them.
I like following the rules, but I pray that my passion to stand on the Bible as the guiding light for my life will never falter. The Bible says, “For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light” (Mark 4:22).