“Then Peter said in reply, “Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life.” (Reference: Matthew 19:27-29 )
It is not easy being a Christian. And if it is, then perhaps one should re-think how intense one’s Christianity is. Or maybe more accurately, how palatable we have made Christianity. There is a groundswell movement, that at times is loud and other times quiet & subdued, that Christians are too critical and uncaring, judgmental and punitive towards people who are too “different” than what the current mode of “Christianity” is. The world has become a very liberal and accepting place, allowing “behaviors” that certain sections of Christians interpret scripture as being against and condemning it. Christianity, or perhaps the perception of Christianity, is balanced on a thin edge and could go either way.
And the problem with discipleship is that Christians who use scripture to judge and condemn others will appeal to discipleship as the reason they should be willing to suffer for clinging to these pejorative beliefs and endure the animosity from a supposedly more liberal society.
It used to be enough to say that one is “Christian” and have it easily understood what the basic foundational beliefs are. But is no longer true. And that may be why Mennonites are drawing on the historic identity of Anabaptists, to say that is the type of Christianity that we claim.
The historic Anabaptists were more concerned about their own behavior, way of life, and faithfulness to God than what others were doing and how they were behaving. That is, scripture was seen as a way to discover how to worship God and live a Godly life for one’s self, and not as a way of measuring the lives of others. The historic Anabaptist lived a more internal life, focusing on themselves and their fellow believers.
Leonhard Schiemer was imprisoned in Rattenberg in 1527, and as he awaited execution wrote about suffering, doubt, and having faith in God’s promises. He wrote, “When . . . God sends us the loss of wife, children, father, mother, brothers, sisters, property, money, or health in life and limb, what alone tortures us is our refusal to believe firmly that it is for our good and that something better is awaiting us in the future. It is as Christ says: “Everyone who has left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children or fields for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life” (Matt. 19:29).”
And I struggle, beloved, with matching this concern to remain faithful to God with the seeming preoccupation of other “Christians” to mandate what is sin and what is not sin in the lives of others. Jesus said, “he who is without sin . . . “ Every historic Anabaptist that I have read of would say he or she is not without sin. And being sinful, they are in no place to cast stones on others.
You may think this is coming out of left field beloved. But think with me; isn’t one of the current faces of Christianity a face/person that is judgmental and condemning of others? Discipleship is supposed to be faithfully living out one’s life according to God’s mission an d purpose in the world. I fear it is turning into a life lived out in telling others how far away they are from God’s mission and purpose in the world. And if there is loss, it is giving up our own purposes and agendas, and not forcing them on others.
Yes, that is it precisely. We give up our own biases and judgments in favor of God’s unconditional love and acceptance. But the historic Anabaptists gave up more than their own human failings. They gave up relationships and possessions in order to be faithful to God. And rather than pushing away and condemning those who believed differently, they yearned to be in community and good relationship with them. How could it be other than that, beloved, if they forgave and prayed for the very people who persecuted them?
This may be a theme I come back to again in the coming months. But for today, beloved, may you release to God those things that must be sacrificed for your faith; but may you strive to create and sustain unconditional love and relationship with those who are around, lifting them up and praying to the God who loves all of creation and humanity equally. Selah!