LEAVEN . . . It gets into the most unpredictable places

Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast–as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth. “ (Reference: 1 Corinthians 5:6-8)

Five years ago, when this scripture passage under the theme of Reading from the Anabaptist Bible appeared on “Sip of Scripture” I wrote Crackers of Goodness. I focused on the history of the Jewish Passover and the prohibition of using yeast during the period time of the Passover. And while rough in some spots, in capture in essence what the writer of 1 Corinthians was saying. But it is not how the historic Anabaptists appropriate the verse.

Their focus was on keeping unworthy people out of their circle of faith, as opposed to each person doing a self-cleansing of their own life. The editors of Reading from the Anabaptist Bible tell us that “Many Anabaptists took these words of Paul as support for fraternal admonition. Menno Simons, who supported a strict application of the ban, appealed to these verses.” Menno Simons himself wrote, “Again, with these words Paul reproves the Corinthians and all other churches with them, who glory in being the church of Jesus Christ and the spiritual house of Israel, and nevertheless tolerate such shameful, corrupting leaven as this Corinthian and his ilk, in their communion. For how can we glory in the piety of the church and reprove the outside churches on account of their ungodly doctrine and life, so long as we tolerate the like leaven of doctrine and life among us, and do not expel it? If we are unleavened, why are we not afraid of the leaven, since the apostle tells us that, A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?”

Simons is not talking theology or philosophy of church life and discipline. He is being very pragmatic and fundamental; how can we, he says, exhort and challenges those outside the church to life a scriptural life when we allow people in the church to get away with all sorts of things (according to Simons’ standards).

What Simons (conveniently?) forgets is that Paul is writing specifically to the church at Corinthian on a particular issue that was both religiously and socially contrary. Paul’s exhortation rests on the fact that they (the Corinthians) were saying they were a pure and holy people, yet this sin was among them. I assure you beloved, an Anabaptist would rarely say they are pure and holy!

It is, I think beloved, a very Anabaptist thing to apply scripture to every day living. I have been doing it for . . . untold amount of years. My writing is proof of that. We grab on to a verse and passage, and try it out in many spots to see where it might be applied best and most accurately/appropriately. We may also see a situation that needs a verse or two . . . or three or four, and then look for scripture that matches our mood and temperament; if we are lucky and bible-literate (in that order!) we will find a verse or more. It is beloved, our cultural “leaven.” It is also might be why the book Reading the Anabaptist Bible could be long enough to span 365 days – they had a lot to say about/write about scripture. But I digress.

May you beloved keep yourselves pure and holy, and apart from sin and those things that mar sincerity and truth. Selah!