For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:11)
Most Mennonites will read or hear this verse and think, “Menno Simons!” Menno was an early Anabaptist leader and writer whose name was given to the Anabaptist movement–first, as “Mennists,” later, as “Mennonites.” His writings were fundamentally important in shaping the thoughts of the Anabaptists, and his skilled leadership was fundamentally important in encouraging a weak and embattled movement.
And yet, of course, when Menno read this verse, and used it as his motto (it appears as an epigraph on most of his writings), he wasn’t thinking of his own foundational role in creating and sustaining a movement. He was thinking of the one who was his foundation: Jesus Christ. It would be a supreme and sad irony if this verse prompted us solely to think of Menno, or the origins of the Mennonite movement.
In fact, as we go through a year of peace verses, it is important to remember that the Mennonites aren’t so much a peace church as they are a Jesus Christ church. The Mennonite peace stance is a “distinctive” for us, but much more important to us is that our founder and foundation is Jesus Christ. When you get to the bottom of it all, we cannot claim that our foundation is “peace.” The foundation is already laid, and no one can lay another; it’s already there, and that foundation is Jesus.
This is how Menno put it:
We see that if any one wishes to build a good house, or high and permanent tower, that first a solid foundation is laid, so that it will sustain the heavy superstructure; that the work, commenced at such great expense, be not ruinously and shamefully demolished and abandoned. Thus it must be with all true christians; they must have, in their hearts, such a sure and solid foundation that they may stand unshaken in the building of their faith, against all the raging tempests, rains and floods, which will try them not a little, so that they may successfully accomplish, by the help of the Lord, their undertaken work and building; so that they may not again depart from the right road, to the everlasting shame and injury of their poor souls. Paul says, “If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him,” Heb. 10:38.
Faithful brethren, take heed: This precious, and only well adapted corner-stone, ground and foundation in Zion, prepared for us by the Father, upon which we have to build the edifice of our faith, is Jesus Christ. All who are founded upon this ground, will not be consumed by the fire of tribulation; for they are living stones in the temple of the Lord, they are like gold, silver and precious stones, and can never be prevailed against by the gates of hell, such as false doctrine, flesh, blood, world, sin, devil, water, fire, sword, or by any other means, if ever so sorely tried; for they are founded upon Christ, confirmed in the faith and assured in the word through the Holy Ghost that they are not to be turned away from the pure and wholesome doctrine of Christ by all the furious and bloody Neros under the heavens, with all their cruel tyranny; they are not to be diverted from an unblamable and pious life, which is of God, as we have seen in many places for more than twenty years past; for they are as immoveable as Mount Zion, as firm pillars, brave soldiers, and as pious, valiant witnesses of Christ; they have fought till death, and do daily fight for the word and truth of the Lord (God be eternally praised). I speak of those who have the Spirit and word of the Lord.
Yea, that stone lies firm in their hearts, and is so sealed by faith in them, that in their greatest need they regard neither father nor mother, wife nor child, money nor possessions, life nor death; for they are so constrained by veneration to God in their hearts, because Christ says, “Whoso[e]ver therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven; but whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven,” Matt. 10:32, 33; that they are not allowed to speak a false word, even to escape the hands of the blood-thirsty and the dangers of death; as may be seen. (From The True Christian Faith, written in 1556, published in English in 1875, available on the web at mennosimons.net).