“Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.“ (Reference: Joel 2:12-13 )
As I said yesterday, the historic Anabaptists could be very strict in their opinions of how to live a Godly life. Their descendents, the Amish still observe a lifestyle that avoids wherever possible technology and modernization. Do not, beloved, believe what you see on any reality series on television or some of the books that have been published about the Amish. Someone who is truly Amish would not open up their lives like that. I could be wrong however, and if so then even the boundaries that the Amish have set up between themselves and “worldly” things are breaking down. But it actually was not my intention to go far down this path of conversation.
The simple point I wanted to make is that they are very strict. Repentance, for them, was not as simply a process as the writer of Joel presents. This is because very soon after the historic Anabaptist formed themselves into groups they were persecuted and oppress, even to the point of death. When it is a life or death situation, the unsure and the weak of faith cave in quickly. It was only those who were absolutely steady in their faith who set the example and standard for others. Being a Anabaptist in those times meant utter commitment and what they expected of themselves they assumed their God would demand. In that they were no different than the Israelites who had a view of a stern and wrathful God. Pilgrim Marpeck said in 1531, “The one who, through genuine works of repentance (that is, through faith in Jesus Christ), submits to the fellowship of suffering under God’s hand and discipline will also participate in the suffering and expiation of Christ, and [such a one] God’s Spirit will be poured. . . .” Do not minimize the statement of suffering; he wrote fully aware that any (historic) Anabaptist believer could and would be tortured for his/her faith. That Christ was tortured, suffered, and died was a literal example to them.
While the historic Anabaptist were tortured and put to death, their accusers would give them to option to renounce and recant their faith, to “come home” to the state religion and be free from persecution. The writings from that time reflect that few if any did. Being put to death was actually to them “returning home” to God. The writer of Joel paints a picture of a gentle and benevolent God who was desirous of the Lord’s people to come back to God. The historic Anabaptists did not see themselves as returning so much as establishing a new way to believe – that is, going forward from a faith life that had not been aligned with the God they understood and believed in. Returning to proper faith, yes, but only because they were doing something new and different. When the historic Anabaptists were being tortured by their accusers, they would plead with their accusers to see the error of their ways and “return” to worship of God as the historic Anabaptists saw it. It was a pivotal time.
May you beloved consider your faith, and what it calls you to and what it call you to endure. May you find a home in a faith community that supports you, and may God call you to return to it if you have gone astray. Selah!