“Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest. My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (Reference: James 5:16-20 )
I did not want to leave this theme, beloved, with you thinking that Anabaptists/Mennonites (both historic and contemporary) were strict and exacting with themselves and their fellow believers. Dirk Philips, who we have heard from often, wrote about relationships within the congregation in his writing aptly titled “Congregation of God” (1560-62). In there he said,
“The fifth ordinance is the commandment of love that Christ has given his disciples, saying a new commandment I give you, that you have love one for another, even as I have loved you. And hereby people will recognize that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another, just as I have loved you, John 13:34: 15:12. From this it is easy to understand that pure brotherly love is an assured sign of true faith and genuine Christianity. But true brotherly love is that we seek first of all one another’s salvation, Gal. 6:2, with our fervent prayers to God, 2 Thess. 1:11, with scriptural instruction, admonition, and discipline, James 5:19. By this we may instruct those who are overtaken in a fall to win their soul and seek it with Christian patience, by which we carry the weak and do not become well pleased with ourselves, Gal. 6:2; 1 John 5:16; James 5:19.” While I do not know for sure, I can well imagine that Philips would be on the compassionate side of banning/shunning.
You may wonder, beloved, as I do why some historic Anabaptists were so dogmatic about keeping separate from those in their faith circle who sinned. I think I had said earlier in the year, when you life is on the line because of faith issue you may not take well to wishy-washy faith or faith this is not consistent and impeccable. Persecution and oppression will do that. It was also part of the mind set of that time that the individual was expendable over the reputation of faith and doctrine. This is true for both sides – the state church and the historic Anabaptists. As the historic Anabaptists moved and then emigrated to other countries, maintaining the consistency of faith and the group identity was very important – more important than the individuals. Human nature will be what it will be, no matter who the human is.
And are we not, beloved, seeing the same fierceness in some people today – maintaining their beliefs, forcing their ideas on others, and not caring who they hurt in the process? I weep for our world, beloved. Weep and pray that God will touch hearts and soften the anger. If you need to rebuke, do it gently. Do it, as Philips said, with Christian patience and not becoming so pleased with yourself. Selah!