Jan27WedJanuary 27, 2016
This past Sunday, we celebrated the anniversary of the first believer’s baptism in Switzerland in 1525. Later, the group which gathered in George Blaurock’s house became known as ‘Radical Reformers.’ They were were committed to:
Over the next one hundred years, religious leaders in Eastern Europe persecuted those who claimed this Anabaptist (re-baptized) theology. Yet the strands of Anabaptist theology have not only survived among Mennonite and Brethren groups, but are thriving throughout the world. Since 2012, our Global Anabaptist witness has surged from 1.7 million to 2.1 million worldwide (source: mwc-cmm.org)!
One of the aspects of the Anabaptist witness which received the most persecution in 16th century Europe was their commitment to non-violent reconciliation. Other groups of Christians quickly dismissed Jesus’ instructions to not [violently] resist one who is evil (Mt 5:39) and “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5:44).
Such a dismissal is also very prevalent among the Christian witness in the Western world. Here an example of this: Our guest from Eastern Mennonite Missions went with me on Monday morning to visit a local Islamic mosque. The Imam graciously allowed us to visit with him for about an hour. In that conversation, he described the perception that Muslims have about American Christians. He said, "A Bible in one hand and a gun in the other, and with their mouth threatening to bomb Muslims... This is the face of Christianity that most Muslims know." The Imam went on to describe several churches and pastors in Peoria that he is frightened of. Therefore, he would never dream of stepping foot into their church buildings or taking their witness about Jesus to heart. This is dreadful news for our Christian witness locally and globally!
Jesus has called the church (you and I) to make disciples. Yet how can we make disciples if other people are terrified of Christians?
This doesn’t just apply to those from a Muslim background, but an increasing number of people from a variety of backgrounds in our day. Therefore, the only way that we can invite others to receive reconciliation with God, is to demonstrate a gospel which includes peace. As my college professor once said, “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.” The groundwork for peace is built through listening, laughing and sharing life together. This is also the groundwork for sharing the love and message of Jesus to our neighbors.
The Anabaptist witness which proclaims the gospel through peace is growing around the world, but is it growing through you? As you build relationships this week, I invite you to consider what kind of witness you are leaving offering the world “for we are the aroma of Christ…among those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:15). May we look increasingly like the person of Jesus to our friends and neighbors! They may have no other example of Christ than yours.