Martin Luther stood before the Holy Roman Emperor. He had been asked the day before whether he recanted of his teachings that he had expressed in his published works. Trembling at the prospect of opposing not just the entire church but the empire as well, Luther asked for a day to consider his reply.
The following day he again appeared before the Imperial Diet at Worms. He was eventually asked the same question: Did he recant or not?
Summoning his courage, Luther is reported to have replied:
Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me.
In a footnote in his newest book Preaching, Tim Keller contrasts this statement to the popular (and infectiously catchy…) song from Disney’s Frozen.
It is both interesting and ironic to compare the sung speech of the character Elsa in Frozen with that of Martin Luther before the Holy Roman Emperor. Both say, “Here I stand.” But Luther meant he was free from fear and from other authorities because he was bound by the Word of God and its norms. Elsa speaks for the contemporary culture by saying she can be free only if there are no boundaries at all.
(p. 283, emphasis mine)
Here then we find two completely different ideas of freedom—two opposing worldviews—represented by the same exact three words: Here I stand.
I have two thoughts to briefly share. The first is the importance of clarifying vocabulary in any discussion of importance with those who do not share your views. Do those we are communicating with really understand what we are saying? And is the same true when it’s our turn to listen?
The second thought is really just a few questions about the nature and meaning of freedom. What does freedom look like for you and I? Is our freedom found in and centered around Christ or is it found in and centered around ourselves? Where do we stand? These are crucial questions and deserve our time and attention, especially as we celebrate our nation’s beginnings this coming weekend.
Here we stand. God help us indeed!
 Though I am no expert in what Luther actually said, Justo Gonzalez includes this version of Luther’s response in The Story of Christianity Volume II: “My conscience is a prisoner of God’s Word. I cannot and will not recant, for to disobey one’s conscience is neither just nor safe. God help me. Amen” (p. 35).