MURDER . . . CAPTIVITY . . . And other trials & tribulations

“If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.” (Reference: Revelation 13:10 )

Barnes says of this passage, “The general truth is, that people will, in the course of things, be dealt with according to their character and their treatment of others; that nations characterized by war and conquests will be subject to the evils of war and conquest – or that they may expect to share the same lot which they have brought on others.” Barnes goes on to explain that these verses are directed at nations who “invade other countries and to make their inhabitants prisoners of war . . [who] made slaves of other people . . [who] set up an unjust dominion over other people . . .[who were] distinguished for persecuting and imprisoning the innocent, or for depriving the nations of liberty.” Barnes further clarifies that he believes these verses were might to applied to the Rome of biblical times. The writer of Revelation and the biblical generation of that time found much to blame Rome for.

Barnes further notes that the power of the Rome of Barnes’ time was reduced to the near point of extinction; it was only 1848 and only by the intervention of France and Austria that it was saved. Barnes’ final comment about this is most chilling, and even more so if we allow an expansion of the definition of “Rome.” He says, “The period designated by prophecy for the final overthrow of that power had not arrived; but nothing can secure its continuance for any very considerable period longer.”

Leonard Schiemer, historic Anabaptist writes during a much earlier earlier time than Barnes, and his world view is smaller than Barnes’. In addition, his focus is more personal for him and his fellow believers, while Barnes is speaking from a place of relative safety. The emphasis is much different. While awaiting his death sentence he prayed and his prayer is recorded. He first laments that “supposed Christians” (I think we can safely assume he means the established church of his time, which stands much in the place of ancient Rome) have done much damage to the holy places of God and killed the people where they have found them. He continues saying, “And now that we remain as a little flock (Luke 12:32), they have driven us with reproach and disgrace into every country. We are scattered like sheep that have no shepherd. We have to abandon house and home, and are as the night ravens, which lodge in the rocks. Our chambers are in caves and cliffs, and snares are laid for us as for the birds of the air. We go about in forests, and are hunted with dogs. We are led captive and bound as dumb lambs which do not open their mouth. Acts 8:32. We are proclaimed rebels and heretics. We are led as sheep to the slaughter. Many sit in distress and bonds, and their bodies have perished. Some have been overcome by the severe sufferings, and died without any guilt. Here is the patience of the saints on earth; and thus must we be proved by suffering. Rev. 13:10.”

He is describing, beloved, the lengths to which the historic Anabaptist believers had to go to in order to be safe. They were hounded and chanced, hunted down and killed, by the state and the established church of the time – which was Roman Catholic. Looking at the history of Roman papacy, both through Barnes’ and Schiemer’s eyes, it is not surprising to discover that some strains of Catholicism have harassed it own members. Schiemer and his fellow believers were part of the Catholic church (that was the established church of the time, and quite before it lost some of its power and sway.) When they broke away, and declared faith that went against the established order, response was swift and deadly.

However, these stories of oppression, persecution, violence, and death are common amongst sects and denominations of Christianity. And those who consider themselves “the saints” in these stories patiently endure and hold firm to faithfulness. But if the stories of Christian saints are filled with endurance under persecution, there are also stories of Christian who have persecuted.

We have then a mixture of stories that cannot be ignored. We endure because God has called us to that. But God does not call us to be oppressors and persecutors. And if we find ourselves in that role, taking people into “captivity” and causing “death” with the “sword” of intolerance, prejudice, hatred, aggression, and violence – we must be aware that we maybe victim to it also.

And not only those who profess Christianity, but as Barnes says all nations. Let us never forget that all nations are still under the judgment of God, whether or not they actively profess God or not. And the truth of Barnes’ statement does not rest only on God’s judgment, but the level of tolerance found in the leadership of each nation. If we have been intolerant of other nations, why should we expect tolerance of us from them? And sadly, as Scheimer says, it is the “little flocks” that suffer most gravely.

May you, beloved, have the courage, conviction, patient endurance and faithfulness to live the lives of the called saints. Selah!

EVIL ACTION . . . .MURDER . . . and other lessor things

“This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you.” (Reference: 1 John 3:11-13 )

I feel like I have reached a benchmark of sorts. Five years ago minus one day, I lost the job I had before my current job. I carried around a great deal of hurt from that experience and the post I wrote for October 31st reflected that. At that time I felt much too wounded to say what happened, it barely being 24 hours after the fact. But I alluded to something happening in the post Living in a World That Hates You. If you read the post from back then, you can tell that I could not keep the hurt of being let go out of my reflections. Having a five year interval allows me the ability to identify what the hurt was. And to say that I have recovered nicely.

I am not, beloved, equating that hurt with the evil action of murder, nor do I see it as equal to Cain who took the life of Abel. And probably in the long run I am better off where I am now, job and career-wise, then I would have been if I was still at the job.

The crux of the post five years ago was that I did not, in hindsight, feel valued or appreciated in that old job. I do feel that way in my “new” job. I do, however, carry a very small sliver of animosity towards my former supervisor; I have prayed many times that I might finally release that feeling, and I have high hopes that in time I will. What I think contributes to that feeling remaining is the disregard that became evident at the time of my being let go. I have had to in my new job let employees go, and in addition have had to make hard decisions concerning staff and clients. What I learned from my former supervisor is what NOT to do, and that has made it easier to know what I should do. But all of this does not precisely address this passage.

In my post from five years, I highlighted “the world hates you” portion and passed over the example of Cain and Abel because it was not germane to my feelings at the time. But I think of that now, that amount of animosity that Cain must have felt; and the shock it must have been to Abel that his brother felt towards him. Even at my lowest point, I don’t think I have ever felt that type and level of hatred. And yet there are instances – a staggering amount of instances – that one person has felt that type of violent hatred toward another.

It puts to shame the title I used five years ago. I realize I have no idea how it feels to live in a world that hates you that much; at least not in the “world” I live in. There is a big brutal world out there that I have never encountered, and I hope I never do! I hope and pray beloved that you do not live in such a world. And even more so I hope and pray that you have not created for others around you that type of world. Do not be surprised though, beloved, if the world does hate you that much. It is possible – more so I think than five years ago. May you have peace and shalom in your world, and may you create a world of peace and shalom for others. Selah!

MURDER . . . It’s a generational thing

Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them. So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. Because of this, God in his wisdom said, “I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.” Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.” (Reference: Luke 11:47-51 )

I am still thinking back to my discovery yesterday of a posting I did five years ago when I suggested that we place ourselves in the role of defending innocents from persecution and death. I don’t know about you beloved, but it lifted me out the fog and funk I am been feeling. We sling opinions and perspectives around so much that we get into a mind set where everyone else is so wrong on everything and we are the only ones that have a firm grip on proper beliefs. And we forget that innocents are too often the collateral causalities in religions battles.

The prophets that God sent were simply, as best as they were able, following God’s instructions as they understood them. I balance large caveats on this not because I belief they were culpable and so should have been able to avoid the persecution and death that visited upon them. Nor do I think that God’s prophets should expect a violent death at the hands of others. Being called to live as God directs, and to speak as God calls one to should not end in a death sentence. It often does, and Jesus warned his followers of this. But that does not mean it is acceptable for others to put them to death, and certainly not those who should be fellow believers.

And with that, we find ourselves clearly in the world of historic Anabaptists. No matter how extreme the established church of that time found them, putting them to death was wrong! And I think the historic Anabaptists have every right to number themselves amongst the prophets in these verses from Luke. This applies also to everyone who has been put to death or persecution because of their belief in God.

Beloved, I certainly feel more balanced now than I have been the last few days. May you accept with good will and tolerance differing opinions from fellow Christians. Let us stop the animosity or worse that we find amongst professed Christian believers, and the tide of animosity or worse that is evident in the world today. Selah!

MURDER . . . How do we stem the murderous tide?

Therefore saith the Lord, I will hold my tongue no more as touching their wickedness, which they profanely commit, neither will I suffer them in those things, in which they wickedly exercise themselves: behold, the innocent and righteous blood crieth unto me, and the souls of the just complain continually. And therefore, saith the Lord, I will surely avenge them, and receive unto me all the innocent blood from among them. Behold, my people is led as a flock to the slaughter: I will not suffer them now to dwell in the land of Egypt: But I will bring them with a mighty hand and a stretched out arm, and smite Egypt with plagues, as before, and will destroy all the land thereof.” (Reference: 2 Esdras 15:7-11 )

I have come to the conclusion, beloved, that it is not wise for me to read social media before commenting on these passages – even though they be from scripture. And to not read the historic Anabaptists quotes, because they remind me too much of the social media.

There is in this country (and cannot speak for other countries, not knowing from the inside what the social and political climate) a “tug of war” going on over social, interpersonal, and political issues. There seems to be no longer any common ground or compromise. Either you are with the opinion-giver or against that person or group – one or the other. Much of the historic Anabaptists quoted seem to tend towards extremist views.

A letter from Walter of Stoelwijk is used with this scripture passage. He writes at one point in his letter, “Oh, how sorrowful will the persecutors of the Christians be, when the righteous God will mete to them with the same measure with which they measured to the Christians. Where shall murderous Cain then hide himself, when the sorrowful and innocent blood of righteous Abel shall cry unto God for vengeance against him? Where shall the Babylonian whore, who now sits in her pleasure house and pomp, and has become drunken with the blood of His saints, and of the martyrs of Christ Jesus, escape the punishment of God, when the Lord will avenge the blood of His saints and witnesses, and require it at her hands?” For all those in his letter who suffer he means of course the Anabaptists. And for all those who cause the suffering he means the religious and state officials of that time.

And I could accept that if it were not for reading the exact same attitude in the daily newspaper, and more pertinently in the social media. As said just a few sentences before, maybe I need to stop reading Facebook. The sad thing is, however, since each person’s Facebook page has only those people who are “invited” to be there, the very articles and postings that cause me to despair are the posts from friends and friends of friends. In other words, these are not random comments from distance corners of the world; these are the people within my social network – a cross-sample of my “world”!

I didn’t know where to turn with my frustrations. So I did as I sometimes do; I turned back the years and looked at what was said 5 years ago. It was me writing that day, and I think I must have been in a better place or frame of mind, because what I said for this day 5 years ago blows me away. Listen to/read what I said.

As an interesting exercise, try substituting your name for “the Lord”. It would go something like this – “Therefore saith Carole [or your name] I will hold my tongue no more as touching their wickedness, which they profanely commit, neither will I, Carole, suffer them in those things, in which they wickedly exercise themselves: behold, the innocent and righteous blood crieth unto me, and the souls of the just complain continually. And therefore, saith Carole [or your name], I will surely avenge them, and receive unto me all the innocent blood from among them. Behold, my/Carole’s people is led as a flock to the slaughter:”

Besides the notion of hubris (meaning overbearing pride/presumptuousness/arrogance) and sacrilegious-ness, what feelings does doing this promote? What actions do you feel you might have to take or should take? What would you say to the governments that allow such actions against the common people? How would you avenge your people? However . . . we are not God so we do not have to decide what to do nor is it our place to.

But supposing, again just as an interesting exercise, it had been our responsibility to protect all these innocent and righteous people, to keep them safe from harm? What could we as humans do? And if there is nothing we can or could do, how could we cope with being unable to prevent it? But again . . . that has not been our duty or responsibility.

But once again, just supposing for interests’ sake, we knew of one or two innocent and righteous people who suffered despite our best efforts. Supposing they were neighbors or friends, or even family, whose innocent blood cried out to us for justice. What would we do?

And if I was to say this is no now longer an exercise of supposing, what would you think? If I were to say we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper, what would that mean? If I were to say there are people in our global neighborhood who have been killed, lambs lead to slaughter because evil exited, what then? Just what are you going to do?

I don’t have the answer. But that does not mean we should stop asking the question. May you this day, in some small way, take a stand for the innocents that you know. Selah!

I don’t know about your beloved, but after reading the “me” of five years ago, I am saddened that our world has become so filled with bickering, back-biting people. And I stand helplessly amongst the loud arguing and disputing. I long for the God from this passage from Esdras to come down and stretch out the Mighty Hand to save the Lord’s people – which is all of us. To save us from ourselves. Again, Selah!

 

MURDER . . . All types . . . throughout the land

“What misery is mine! I am like one who gathers summer fruit at the gleaning of the vineyard; there is no cluster of grapes to eat, none of the early figs that I crave. The godly have been swept from the land; not one upright man remains. All men lie in wait to shed blood; each hunts his brother with a net. Both hands are skilled in doing evil; the ruler demands gifts, the judge accepts bribes, the powerful dictate what they desire- they all conspire together. The best of them is like a brier, the most upright worse than a thorn hedge. The day of your watchmen has come, the day God visits you. Now is the time of their confusion.” (Reference: Micah 7;1-4)

I am set once again to quote and comment on Menno Simons’ critiquing the church leaders of the time, warning them, “Do not excuse yourselves, dear sirs, and judges, because you are the servants of the emperor. . . . Do not usurp the judgment and kingdom of Christ, for He alone is the ruler of the conscience, and besides Him there is none other . . . . You must hearken to God above the emperor, and obey God’s Word more than that of the emperor. If not, then you are the judges of whom it is written in Micah . . . “ He tells them, “Let Him [God] be your emperor in this matter and His holy Word your edict, and you will soon have enough of storming and slaying.” I am sure Simons’ lament would be like Micah’s that the godly and upright are no longer in the land. But I am weary of hearing such laments and explaining again that it is not fair too condemn a large group for what just a handful do.

But then I remember my own peeves against politicians and such. How can I critique Simons when I myself long to lash out and the social and political pundit and “movers/shakers” when their beliefs do not coincide with mine. And Simons does have the greater peeve, for his “pundits” were putting people to death rather than just putting them down!

But you know what? I am tired of all of them. Simons and all the others’ rants and rhetoric. Modern day political/social commentators and all of the news media who feeds on it and feeds it to us. I am weary of this person criticizing that person for what they said about another person. I am tired of hearing about it and reading about it. I am tired of it all!

The misery is mine! I long to gather peace and harmony – shalom. But it is not there! The branches are empty of any good fruit! As to the godly and upright? Well . . . they are there. You are there beloved. Do you tire of it also? The murder – make no mistake, there is loss of life – and the verbal murder – fueled at times with anger that could kill with a look. Where is the peace beloved? Let us look for it, gather it where we may. Selah!

MURDER . . . Justification by “faith”


“Her officials within her are like wolves tearing their prey; they shed blood and kill people to make unjust gain.” (Reference: Ezekiel 22:27 )

[ Bear with me beloved; I will explain why I gave this post the title I did. ]

The writer of Ezekiel says the Lord told him to lay accusations upon the leaders and people of Israel. No one was excused from the charges. The prophets, the priests, the leaders, and the common people were all accused, from verses 23 through to 29. I am sure each of them had their reasons and rationale for doing what they did. And asked, they would probably say they are follow God . . . as they understand the Lord. Justified by faith.

Menno Simons wrote about the leaders of his time, citing (amongst others) this passage. His accusation were laid to rest at the feet of the leader of the established church at that time. He wrote, “The lords and keepers of the law are generally after nothing but favor and friendship of their prince to whom they are sworn—after authority and good wages, sought with great avarice. These are they who torture, banish, confiscate, and murder, as the prophet says, Her princes within her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves; they gnaw at the bones till the morrow. Zeph. 3:3. At another place, Her princes in the midst thereof are like wolves ravening the prey, to shed blood, and to destroy souls, to get dishonest gain. Ezek. 22. Oh, how true was the revelation of the holy John, when he say that the Babylonian whore was drunken with the blood of the saints and of the martyrs of Jesus. Rev. 17:6.”

But the leaders of that time felt they were safeguarding the faith against heretics. And “cleansing” the church so that the faithful might not be lead astray. And the historic Anabaptists were just as convinced that they had the proper hold and perspective on faith, and therefore condemned the entire church for the oppression and persecution they suffered at the hands of a few. Justified by faith.

And what of us, beloved, and our generation? What are we accusing others for, and laying condemnation at their feet for? Do we feel we are justified by our faith? Even though it may be a flawed faith?

There is no wrongdoing in conforming our lives to a certain type and perspective of faith. Where we err is when we accuse others. Perhaps the writer of Ezekiel was confident that he heard the Lord “correctly”. And if our pondering and meditation stopped there, we would not have to consider further. But we (or at least I am) are not just looking at these scripture passages from our own perspective and in our own time. I/We are using the lens of historic Anabaptists to see how they applied these verses. And what the implications are for us.

There is a wide difference between Christian beliefs, as they are held by Christians on every continent of the world. There is no global agreement and consensus. But that is not the real problem. Because where there is no global agreement, there is no global acceptance of Christian views. Each group holds to their faith, and since they feel theirs is the only correct faith, they feel justified by their faith to condemn others. I do not say this is true of every Christian group – praise be to God! – but it is true of enough groups that it is darn embarrassing!

Global Christian may not be as bad as the time of the writer of Ezekiel and Menno Simons. But we are a far ways from unconditional acceptance and love. And while we are not (or I pray not) actually murdering each other, as God accused the Israelites and Simons accused the church leaders of his time, the sin of hating one’s brother or sister is not any less than murdering them. Maybe to the judicial laws, but we answer to a Higher Power, beloved. There is time enough in the days ahead to consider actual murder, and what perspectives the historic Anabaptists gathered under that type of theme. Let us this day make sure that we treat our brothers and sisters with the compassion that is mandated by our Lord. It is the only thing our faith can justify. Selah!