According to Bonhoeffer “Everything changed” when he discovered the Sermon on the Mount:
I was lacking in humility…terribly ambitious…alone…then something happened…for the first time I discovered the Bible…Then the Bible freed me from that, in particular the Sermon on the Mount. Since then everything has changed. I have felt this plainly, and so have other people around me. –Ferdinand Schlingensiepen, Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945: Martyr, Thinker, Man of Resistance pg.95
Bonhoeffer scholar Ferdinand Schlingensiepen says the influence of Jean Lasserre was influential in Bonhoeffer’s transition from theologian to Christian:
Bonhoeffer’s ‘transition from theologian to Christian’ …was induced by Bonhoeffer’s experience in the USA, particularly his conversations with Jean Lasserre (A Christian pacifist who believed Christians should live the Sermon on the Mount today) –Ferdinand Schlingensiepen, Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945: Martyr, Thinker, Man of Resistance pg.94
In 1935 Bonhoeffer still believed the Sermon on the Mount was the hope of the church:
The restoration of the church must surely depend on a new kind of monasticism, which has nothing in common with the old but a life of uncompromising discipleship, follow Christ according to the Sermon on the Mount. I believe the time as come to gather people together and do this” (Bonhoeffer in letter to his brother in 1935) –Ferdinand Schlingensiepen, Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945: Martyr, Thinker, Man of Resistance pg.175
How should the Church celebrate Memorial Day? Some thoughts from Bonhoeffer’s 1932 Memorial Day sermon:
The demons rise up. It is a rebellion against Christ. And one great power of this uprising is called war! …
“What does faithfulness of the church-community of Christ mean here other than calling out into this furious raging [of war] again and again – unto exhaustion, unto humiliation, unto martyrdom – the words of Christ that there should be peace, that there should be love, that there should be blessing, and that he is our peace, and that God is a God of peace?
“And the more they rage, the more we should call out. And the more we call out, the more wildly they will rage. For wherever the word of Christ is truly spoken, the world senses that it is either ruinous madness or ruinous truth, which endangers its very life. Where peace is really spoken, war must rage twice as hard, for it senses that it is about to be driven out. Christ intends to be its death.” —The Collected Sermons of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (editor: Isabel Best) via TGC
What did Bonhoeffer think was necessary to destroy Nazism? Assassination? Living the Sermon on the Mount?
I would only achieve true inner clarity & honesty by really starting to take the Sermon on the Mount seriously. Here alone lies the force that can blow all this hocu pocus [of Nazism] sky high – like fireworks, leaving only a few burnt-out shells behind… (Dietrich Bonhoeffer in a letter to his brother Karl) –Ferdinand Schlingensiepen, Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945: Martyr, Thinker, Man of Resistance
Bonhoeffer has well documented his confidence in living the Sermon on the Mount in “The Cost of Discipleship” (in which Bonhoeffer is more radical about cheap grace & the living the Sermon on the Mount than many Mennonites I have met!) . I have scoured his later “Ethics” to find any trace of a reversing of his earlier strongly held beliefs and I can find none.
The loss of perception that Jesus (really) is Lord & has all power in heaven and earthnow and that this conviction was a supreme, animating force for early Christians and should also be for Christians today is no more apparent than in the loss of the supremacy of the Psalm 110 event in the imagination of the Christian church and the corresponding loss of recognition & observance of Ascension Day.
Today the majority of Christians in the USA celebrate July the 4th but, according to my informal survey in Lancaster Pennsylvania, have no clue when or what Ascension Day even is. We call people who don’t have a basic knowledge about the country they are citizens of irresponsible at best and scandalously ignorant at worst. The Ascension of Christ to rule the world is basic knowledge about the Kingdom of God and I’ll let you draw your conclusions about what this says about Christians of our day.
Many American Christians are quite unaware that the writers of the New Testament had a favorite passage and that it is Psalm 110. Depending on how you figure it ties with references to the 10 Commandments & the Shema (Love God with your all), but by most counts, references & allusions to Psalm 110 far surpasses those other passages. And these references to Psalm 110 are not just incidental comments, but points of high theological significance: A riddle by Jesus that permanently silenced the Jewish rulers, the answer to Pilate’s most important question at Jesus’ trial, the Jewish ruler’s reason for Jesus’ death, the clinching point of Peter’s sermon on Pentecost and more. The scandalous thing is that most Christians haven’t heard about Psalm 110 and even if you tell them the passage they have no idea what it contains. Clearly the NT writers and our emphasis has shifted! Not to keep you in suspense, lets look at Psalm 110:
TheLordsaid unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool...Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek… –Psalm 110:1,4
TheLordsaid unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. 2 TheLordshall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. 3 Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth. 4 TheLordhath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. 5 The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath.6 He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries. 7 He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head.
We won’t take time to explain the whole passage here (even though it is well worth the time) but just want to cover some of the most important ideas:
Jesus Has All Power in the World Now
Jesus is now King of the World
Jesus’ Kingship is Characterized by Peace & Justice
Jesus Has All Power
For the first Christians something shocking had happened to the earth: It had received a new King. The world had a new President. This was staggering news that shook the world. It made the stars of world that then was fall from the sky. The importance & power of Roman emperors who were always headline news were suddenly eclipsed by a blinding light from heaven & a new reality: Jesus of Nazareth had become the supreme ruler of the world. Paul in Philippians 2 talked about this earth shattering fact in this way: “God hath highly exalted Jesus and given him a name which is above every name…which the whole world will worship…”
Jesus Has All Power Now
When is Jesus Lord, when is Jesus King, and when is Jesus all powerful? Now. All Power is given Me in heaven and earth. (Mt 28:18)In Paul’s day already Jesus had been given a name that is above every name. (Ph 2) And Psalm 110 notes this would happen while enemies are still being subdued. Contrary to common conceptions it seems Jesus can have all power while allowing enemies, which demonstrates that Jesus’ power is of a similar nature to God’s power & nature who is all powerful but at the same time allows human choosing.
Jesus Now Has All Power on Earth
Many are fine saying “Jesus is Lord”, and that Jesus has all power in heaven, but get a little uneasy to make the claim which Mt 28:18 does, which is to say Jesus has all power on earth. How we account for Jesus having all power on earth while He is still “conquering”? I think the key is how God & Jesus wield “All Power”. Which brings us to the last point…
Jesus Now Has All Power On Earth…And It Looks Like Justice & Peace
Who is this Melchizedek guy which Jesus’ rule would be “ordered after”? He holds the key to what kind of rule the all power Christ has and which will inevitably conquer the world. He is the king of Peace. He is the one whose name means king of Justice. (Melek=king; tsadeq=justice) He is the priest of the “most High God”. He brings “bread & wine” which is incredibly hard not to associate with the broken body & shed blood of Christ. After Abraham’s communion with the king of Justice & Peace he adamantly refuses to benefit from war in any way. Some writers note that after Abraham’s meeting with the king of Justice & Peace he saves those in the city by pleading with God instead of killing the enemy.
Why have Christians lost an awareness that Jesus is Lord? Perhaps because we have lost the emphasis that is now sitting at the right hand of God and that Jesus is now truly Lord of the World? Perhaps because we are not convinced that Jesus has All Power, That Jesus has all power Now, That Jesus has all power now in heaven & In Earth. And that Jesus’ all power, now, in heaven & earth looks like Melek of Tsadeq & Shalom and that this power is conquering the world even as we speak. And as Psalm 110 describes, Christ will not stop until there is total victory. If we are really convinced of this, taking a special day to commemorate & worship this ascended Lord seems a very appropiate (if strange to our culture) thing to do.
Martin Luther recently brought it to my attention that clothing was no less than one of the top 3 issues that the faced the State of his time. In “A Treatise of Good Works” (1520) Martin Luther notes 3 evils the rulers (the State) in his time should address:
Make an end of gluttony & drunkeness. (men could live without seasonings & spices…)
Forbid the excessive costly clothing (This is indeed an unchristian thing…)
Drive out usurious buying of rent-charge, (which ruins the whole world and troubles our lands…)
Or listen to Luther request a German law to prohibit “extravagance in dress” in his writing “To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation” click here:
In the first place, we require a general law and consent of the German nation against profusion and extravagance in dress, which is the cause of so much poverty among the nobles and the people. Surely God has given to us, as to other nations, enough wool, fur, flax, and whatever else is required for the decent clothing of every class; and it cannot be necessary to spend such enormous sums for silk, velvet, cloth of gold, and all other kinds of outlandish stuff. I think that even if the Pope did not rob us Germans with his unbearable taxes, we should be robbed more than enough by these secret thieves, the dealers in silk and velvet.
Roland Bainton, in his biography “Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther” notes an additional concern of Luther:
He was in such a panic of disgust because the girls at Wittenberg were wearing low necks that he left home declaring that he would not return.
Thankfully his physician was able to convince Luther to return home.
These sentiments on dress are especially interesting since Martin Luther himself writes quite unsympathetically of the Anabaptist’s for speaking on the issue of proper attire for Christians & actually practicing wearing simple clothes in his own “Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount”:
“…Anabaptists say… stop…dressing like other people…” -p.263
“…they say, one must not wear satin or silk, red or variegated clothes.. .” p.264
“…but he is a true Christian who proves it by his works, forsakes everything, does not accept any secular authority and rule; dresses in a gray coat; suffers hunger and sorrow, etc…
For the whole context:
“See, thus must they embellish themselves, both in doctrine and practice, so that they employ the same words that we hear, and along with this lead a beautiful attractive life; as now our anabaptist sectaries, in fact, mislead many people by crying out that we do not have the real gospel, because one may see that it yields no fruit, and the people continue to be bad, proud, avaricious, etc.; that there must be something more than the mere word and letter: the Spirit must do it, and they must honestly strive to live better; if it were the word of God it would surely also produce fruit. Then they go on and say they have the true understanding, and the right fruits and life. If a simple, inexperienced man hears this, he says: O, that is really so! lets himself thus be carried away by the taking words: Spirit, and fruits of the Spirit. Then they go further, and say: He who wants to be a Christian must not share in civil authority, or bear a sword, or have anything of his own, as it is with us; but he is a true Christian who proves it by his works, forsakes everything, does not accept any secular authority and rule; dresses in a gray coat; suffers hunger and sorrow, etc. These they call fruits of the Spirit. See, these are nothing but sheep’s clothing; with these they carry away crowds of the poor people…” -Martin Luther, Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount
Luther’s critique of the Anabaptist’s on this point is intriguing in two ways:
Luther apparently agrees with the Anabaptists in principle (perhaps not in extent?) that the issue of dress needed a solution in his society
Luther seems only to differ on how to achieve societal reform of dress and his solution is State laws on dress! (compared to Anabaptist’s voluntary community commitment)
It is quite interesting to read Luther and Anabaptist responses to the ills of society. Should a Christian promote a community who calls men voluntarily to avoid gluttony, drunkenness, costly clothing & usury…or have THE STATE with it’s coercive measures take on these tasks? The latter is the Luther/Constantinian model and the former the Apostolic/Anabaptist model.
And, we might do well to remember that Jesus Himself gave some warnings about money, food & clothing.
 A Treatise of Good Works, Martin Luther
 To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, Martin Luther (quote)
 Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, Roland Bainton
 Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, Martin Luther
What is often edited out, or, at the least dramatically muted in the telling of the Christmas story is the political threat that baby Jesus, King of the Jews & King of Kings, seemed to pose to the powers that were, that first idyllic Christmas!
A perceived political threat to which the politicians had one unified solution: death…killing babies and grownups who threatened the “security” of the nation. Perhaps the Kings of the Earth overestimated the political threat of the King of Kings? Or were the Kings of the Earth more finely attuned to actual threats to their power?
Is it using too much imagination to see hints of the future in Herod and Pilate? The prior aligning with the tendencies of the Left and latter with the tendencies of the Right? But both unified in wielding the power of Death during the rise and rule of the King of Life who would conquer Death Itself.
Then Herod…was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem… -Matthew 2:16
Matthew 2:16 – Then Herod…was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. 18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not
…He [Pilate] delivered Him to be crucified. -Matthew 27:26
Acts 4:26, 27 – The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against His Christ. 27 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou has anointed, both Herod, and Pontias Pilate, with Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together….
This Christmas let’s celebrate the Prince of Peace and Life. Let’s remember its the King of Kings who “so loved the World”, which included the babies and grownups who threaten the peaceful status quo. Let’s remember that what we do to the least of our fellow humans, we are doing to Jesus Himself. And let us, like the King of the Jews, not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with Good.
Get your sins out of my sight.…
Give up your evil ways.
Learn to do good.
Help the oppressed.
Defend the cause of orphans.
Fight for the rights of widows.
Isaiah 1:15-20 is an incredible passage that graphically underlines what God sees as the fundamental basis for justice: love & taking up the cause of the oppressed, orphans & widows. (strangers?) justice is the opposite of “hands that kill”, it is hands who take up the cause of “the other” & “the stranger”. From Genesis to the prophets, to Revelation this is our God. It is Jubilee (freeing the oppressed, wealthy being voluntarily more than fair with poor, etc.) and Sabbath (rest for all, STRANGER included) that was envisioned as bringing lasting peace, justice & liberty throughout the land (quoted on American liberty bell). When Jesus came and stood up in the Temple, He effectively said, “I am instituting the much awaited Jubilee!” Jesus championed a new Kingdom based on Jubilee, and rejected violence as the needed foundation for justice and concretely rejected violent revolution (Peter) and death for breaking the law (woman caught in adultery/John 8:4). James is in perfect harmony with the the God of the OT, the prophets and spirit of Jesus when he says: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27)
Some versions of “justice” might be blind, but not God’s version.
I found this debate fascinating from a Mennonite/Anabaptist-Christian perspective and glad to see Christians defending that the Bible calls for peace. As I was listening to the debate I wrote down some random thoughts, and after talking to a friend about the debate who wanted to see my scribbling’s, I decided to post them. Below is an outline of the debate and some commentary. Enjoy.
—David Wood’s Opening Statement—
David Wood’s opening statement is very powerful. It is powerful precisely because it emphasizes Jesus’ call to peace and does not attempt to justify violence of any sort. Wood gives his personal testimony of overcoming his own violent tendencies (2:14). He notes that the apostle’s Peter, John & Paul were all also changed from having a willingness to be violent in the name of nationalism or religion to calling for love to all men. (7:32) Wood notes that “Jesus emphasized love as a core Christian virtue”, “violence leads to violence and causes a cycle of violence” (10:27), “when you see what God did there is no room for hating other people”, “the impact of Jesus on Stephen is that he did not want to see guilty people punished” (12:00), “Christians voluntarily give up their liberty to love others”, (12:40), and “for three centuries they never fought back…and shed no blood but their own” (13:25). Wood notes that the Bible has caused Christians to be involved in loving their fellowmen in innovative ways for their times: Ended gladiatorial games, condemned infanticide, helped needy people, took care of orphans, built the first hospitals, and created hospitals for the mentally ill. Wood wraps up with that comment “Violence came to an end with the Gospel” (19:29) and a summarizing statement he used various times throughout the debate: “the final marching orders of the Bible are “love everyone”…and “live in peace with everyone“. (19:39).
If I was to summarize Wood’s points on why the Bible is a book of peace:
Wood’s personal life testimony
Historical life testimonies of apostles & many Christians since
Jesus communicated love & peace as core virtue
Christian influence on Roman society & acts of charity
I would note that as a nonresistant, Mennonite Christian I could agree with nearly everything Wood said in his opening statement as there was little mention of exceptions for justifying violence for the Christian.
—Shabir Ally’s Opening Statement—
Shabir Ally starts by noting he has 4 criteria for determining if a book is peaceful:
Criteria 1: He gives several points to attempt to argue his criteria 1, that the Bible presents it’s hero’s as violent: the NT in Hebrews 11 presents violent conquerors as hero’s (28:20): Samson killing Philistines, David killing 200 Philistines for their foreskins & Samuel telling Saul to kill all the Amalekites.
Criteria 2: Ally immediately grants that the Bible passes his criteria 2 & that the Bible commands people to live in peace.
Criteria 3: Ally argues that the Bible creates no “universal system to live in peace” (36:51) in our day because
Christians do not clearly envision the church as an alternative social order to modern nation-states, but envision their social order & vision of war & peace guided by the nation-states in which they live [This is implied, then stated by Wood, then added as an argument by Ally in a response] (xx:xx)
The Bible gives title deed of the land to Israel and therefore justifies Israel’s coercive taking of Palestinian’s land (36:40) and
The NT reaffirms the Biblical title deed to the land of Palestine (37:44).
Criteria 4: On just war, Ally argues that 1) the Bible “affirms genocide over & over” (38:00) and 2) the Bible does not lay out a rationale for just war.
Next Ally gives a rebuttal of Wood’s summarizing statement that “the final marching orders of the Bible are ‘love everyone'” by arguing that:
The final picture in Revelation is that when Jesus returns He will be violent (39:10)
In Isaiah 63 God is shown with bloody garments from dead enemies & in the end Jesus will be like this (39:40), and
In Psalm 110 Jesus will have his feet on His slain enemies (40:20)
Ally’s final summarizing statement is “The Bible is both a book of love and a book of war and dreadful violence.” (40:40) and one can pick and choose between love and violence.
Critieria 1 (hero representation) Response: Wood spends most of his time arguing that in the OT “hagiographic hyperbole” (49:43) was being used and that genocide was not being carried out. I think Wood does a persuasive job of arguing this, but the challenge is that in Wood’s success he seems to prove Ally’s point that the Bible is presenting a people that brag & boast about their violence.
Criteria 2 (peace command) Response: Heb 12:14 commands to “pursue peace with all men”. Success.
Criteria 3 (universal system of peace) Responses:
Wood agrees that “Christianity is not about creating a legal system”. (50:30) This seems to indicate the Wood is granting Ally is correct that the Bible does not create a universal system for creating peace. But then he notes
“Love your neighbor as yourself will work regardless of government” (50:30).
Next Wood seems to agree with Ally that the Bible doesn’t have a peaceful resolution to the land dispute and then attempts to resolve this by saying the Koran also supports this non peaceful solution. Arguing that the Bible does not give a peaceful solution by saying some other book agrees with a non peaceful solution is not an argument for the Bible being a book of peace, but just that everyone is agreeing peace is not needed in this scenario.
Criteria 4 (just war) Response:
Wood argues the Bible gave rise to just war theory, although he acknowledges Cicero came up with just war theory before Christians. (51:50) An objection to this response might be: If Cicero was Roman, why do the Romans not get credit for just war theory?
The way Wood says the Bible gave rise to just war theory is that “Christians needed to run Roman Empire and …wanted to reconcile Romans 13 curbing evil with loving neighbor and enemy”. Some questions that might weaken this response: Did Christians “need to run the Roman Empire”? Does the “reconciling” above change Jesus’ call to “love everyone” into something more like “love some”? Does it change/modify Jesus’ “final marching orders”? This argument could make it appear that “love everyone” was not a final marching, but just an unequivocal marching order until “needing to run the Roman Empire”, and after that “love All” became “love your neighbor & fight your enemy”.
Romans 13 plus Acts 25, you have just war theory right there. (1:23:13)
Wood does not deal with Ally’s comments about how Revelation seems to end Bible violently.
Some of my conclusions:
Criteria 1/Hero Representation-Failed: I think that this debate is a bit awkward because the question should probably be “Does Jesus Create of People of Peace?”. Is the OT violent? Yes. As Wood argues persuasively to salvage the OT from genocide he clearly demonstrates that the OT warriors boasted about their violence. He may have delivered them from genocide, but not a lot of violence. What could be an alternative approach to this challenge?
The Jewish self understanding was that they needed to look to God to defend them and God minimized the escalation of violence by calling His people to not multiply military machinery like “chariots & horses”. The Jewish self understanding was that faith in God, not a strong military was what preserved them. This is demonstrated by battles clearly unwinnable by traditional armies. (Jericho, Midianites, Red Sea, etc)
Wood could have noted that Jesus himself noted that “you used to be commanded to love your neighbors and hate your enemies but I say unto you something new… love.” When God came to earth, His conquering was done using love.
Criteria 2/Peace Command-Succeeded: This was never much of a point in the debate but it was well demonstrated in Wood’s opening.
Criteria 3/Universal system for peace-Not a Strong Response: Wood started out great, saying that Jesus calls Christians to love ALL. That sounds like a “universal system of peace” to me, but unfortunately in Wood’s subsequent responses he whittles away at the idea of a “universal system for peace” and the “ALL”. Wood himself seems to not envision that Jesus organized a people into a new social order, a kingdom of peace, but rather that Christian’s defer to governments they live in on the matter of which enemies are loved or fought and killed. But, he adds, personally “loving all”. He further weakens the “universal system for peace” by defending that the Bible (& thus Jesus?) supports taking Palestinian land and/or the right to defend it by violent means if necessary. Ally rightly calls out that if the Bible says this, then it does not have a solution for peace today. Finally, since Wood feels compelled to support just war theory he needs to support sometimes having enemies that you violently resist, which seems to take the sharp edge off his point that Jesus’ final word is to love everyone. Wood seems to be (once again) inadvertently making one of Shabir Ally’s main points: That the Bible supports both violence AND peace. What might be an alternative response to the challenge that the Bible creates a “universal system for peace”? Intriguingly Wood gave a powerful argument for Christianity as a “universal system for peace” when he noted that “for three centuries they [Christians] never fought back…and shed no blood but their own” (13:25). When early Christians did not envision themselves as needing to run the Roman Empire they envisioned, and were a people who embodied, a way of life that was a “universal system for peace”. During this period no Christian violently defended their property rights which would answer Ally’s question about land & peace. In short, Christians viewed themselves as a people & kingdom organized in a totally new way, that is, solely around love and peace and a willingness to die as a martyr rather than kill those who would wrong them. This was in sharp contrast to every empire that has existed.
Criteria 4/Just War-Not a Strong Response: I think Ally is correct that the Bible supports holy war (violent holy war in the OT) but does not build a case for just war theory in the OT or NT. Wood himself notes that just war theory was an idea borrowed from prior Greek/Roman thinkers like Cicero. (51:50). In the NT Jesus builds a case for love that seemed to leave the early church under the impression there was no need for justifying war of any sort, which is exactly how the church lived for several centuries, according to Wood. (13:25). It seems that the way an early Christian might have answered criteria 4 & 5 is that Christians (that is, those that live like Christ) are a people who have faith that love, peace and blessing enemies is the #1 “weapon” in overcoming the world. A people ordered like this clearly have a system that if adopted by all will bring peace and have no need of justifying war.
Point that Revelation ends the Bible in violence: -MORE COMING-
Point that peace and violence are found in the Bible: In short, many Christian have a view that seems to validate this perception. -MORE COMING-
IMHO, the discussions on the Koran do not seem to be relevant to this debate, both when Ally and Wood bring it up. (they may be relevant to the larger Christian/Muslim discussion, but they should not be needed to prove the Bible is a book of peace)
Yes, the Bible is a book of Peace! Sadly too often we have interpreted it into a book of violence because our faith in the overcoming power of the Cross of the slain Lamb has wavered. It is hard to have one hand on a weapon to kill our enemies while witnessing to the power of Cross to overcome our enemies with love. But the Christian church’s failings do not change that God is, as the Apostle Paul repeatedly reminded us, a “God of Peace”. A God who came to bring not only bring peace “in hearts”, but peace among those who are not reconciled to one another, that is, peace “on earth”! Let us have faith and let us have hope! The Slain Lamb has conquered! Let us follow Him!
Mennonites and unacculturated Anabaptists are a people criticized for not knowing the reasons for their beliefs, knowing the reason & keeping it to themselves, or for being knowledgeable and defending the reasons for their beliefs.
unacculturated Anabaptists are a people criticized for not knowing the reasons for their beliefs, knowing the reason & keeping it to themselves, or for being knowledgeable and defending the reasons for their beliefs.
They are criticized for ignorance, quietism or sectarianism which seems cover every possible relationship one might have to beliefs. The fact that all three positions are a problem seems an indicator that the only way to escape this quandry of stupidity, self-interest or dogmatic pride is to join the critics perspective at which point the new beliefs & practices presumably become simple faithful obedience, strong and quiet faith or a powerful and excellent apologetic.
Since one can always be criticized for their relationship to their beliefs (and perhaps even rightly in many instances) a more fruitful way to move forward might be to discuss the beliefs themselves and if they are valid and conform to Jesus’ example.
When Christians hold the standard, early Christian position of loving enemies, nonresistance or Christian pacifism based in the Love & Cross of Christ a question that will come up quite quickly: “If an armed man came into your house and was going to kill your innocent child would you violently resist them?” This question is usually considered the ultimate question against enemy love.
Surely any just & loving parent cannot allow their child, their only and perfectly innocent child to be killed by an evil person?
Surely any just & loving parent cannot allow their child, their only and perfectly innocent child to be killed by an evil person? Only a very, very evil person would not kill those who are threatening their child, their only, innocent and beloved child?! The child is innocent! The evil person is guilty as sin! Only a despicable, evil, monstrous, misguided, child-hating, unworthy parent could allow this to happen…
The question “Would you defend your innocent child?” has in the most unexpected and abrupt way brought us to the crux of the Gospel story! I am astonished to note that this question brings us directly to crucible of the Salvation plan of God! God’s amazing plan seems to have intentionally but secretly embedded this question into its very fabric! A witness to Enemy Love of Christ seems intended to unlock this amazing question “Would a just parent violently defend their innocent child?”
A witness to Enemy Love of Christ seems intended to unlock this amazing question “Would a just parent violently defend their innocent child?”
In a kind of high speed character switch…YOU have suddenly become evil man threatening to kill the innocent child! (and We all are!) YOU threaten the perfectly perfect, perfectly innocent and only son of God. And the just Parent, God Himself, has a perfect weapon. Unlike the many human scenarios we can think up God and His lethal weapon can kill you and save his innocent Child. He looks at the weapon. He knows that throughout the years people will say “a just parent MUST save His innocent child…” He knows that again and again people have already exonerated Him “It’s okay to love your child more than other people…”. He hears more people say “Killing is sometimes Love when it is to save what is important to you” He looks at the weapon that will be perfectly effective… “Will a just parent kill those in the act of killing their child?”
The innocent Child is speaking! The innocent Child is speaking to all of us. Those who have pointed guns at the innocent. Those who have had to decide if they would point a gun at the guilty. Those throughout history who have, through the inexplicable turns of history & the “necessity” of being responsible, pointed the guns at their fellow Christians. God. The Innocent Child says that His Dad does not need to kill YOU to be just. Innocent children everywhere throughout history repeat the same message. (for how can those who Jesus says are clearly of his Kingdom speak anything other than what the King child speaks?) The actual words the child says are “My father could easily kill you, all I need to do is signal Him to”…but… “Killing to save what one loves” is not how the world is supposed to be. And someone needs to take the first brave step in the new world as God always wanted it to be. God knows He will be considered crazy by the world that now is. But God is ready to start the end of Good being called Evil in history. God does not do NOTHING, He does the most amazing SOMETHING in history. Sheer and raw scandal! He starts the most utterly scandalous movement in History.
A perfectly just and entirely honorable Parent does not need to violently kill to save those He especially loves, He dies in the interest of loving all.
A perfectly just and entirely honorable Parent does not need to violently kill to save those He especially loves, He dies in the interest of loving all. And, THANK GOD, those He loves is EVERYONE. This is the scandalous and amazing new world God has introduced when the world threatened to shoot His Son.
And this, apparently, was at the heart of God’s plan to save the world from evil. Embedded. As if waiting for us to ask the question.
Menno Simons was a 16th century Catholic priest who took a look at his Christianity and life and noted, like many of his fellow priests, it was pathetic. Menno started to re-think his Christianity—and he came up with a shocking idea: We should just do what Jesus recommended. After thinking for some time Menno came to the conclusion that our lives should look something like what he wrote below:
“True evangelical faith is of such a nature it cannot lie dormant, but spreads itself out in all kinds of righteousness and fruits of love;
it dies to flesh and blood;
it destroys all lusts and forbidden desires;
it seeks, serves and fears God in its inmost soul;
it clothes the naked;
it feeds the hungry;
it comforts the sorrowful;
it shelters the destitute;
it aids and consoles the sad;
it does good to those who do it harm;
it serves those that harm it;
it prays for those who persecute it;
it teaches, admonishes and judges us with the Word of the Lord;
it seeks those who are lost;
it binds up what is wounded;
it heals the sick;
it saves what is strong (sound);
it becomes all things to all people.
The persecution, suffering and anguish that come to it for the sake of the Lord’s truth have become a glorious joy and comfort to it.”
It is interesting to me that none of the above actions requires a politician or some other person to do something: We can get right to work. God bless us as we do.
Short Version: For true evangelical faith…cannot lie dormant; but manifests itself in all righteousness and works of love; it…clothes the naked; feeds the hungry; consoles the afflicted; shelters the miserable; aids and consoles all the oppressed; returns good for evil; serves those that injure it; prays for those that persecute it.”