Basic principle of Anabaptist belief #10: Peace modeled by the Prince of Peace.
“Anabaptists believe that the peace position is neither optional, marginal, nor related mainly to the military. On the basis of Scripture, Anabaptists renounce violence in human relationships. We see peace and reconciliation—the way of love—as being at the heart of the Christian gospel. God gave his followers this ethic not as a point to ponder, but as a command to obey. It was costly for Jesus and it may also be costly for his followers. The way of peace is a way of life.“
Are you interested in practical theology, putting your faith in action, and experiencing the overflow of the Holy Spirit? Today we’re discussing radical peace from an Anabaptist Christian standpoint, which I recently discovered, resonated with, and found to be incredibly beautiful. Welcome! Let’s dive in together.
Peace isn’t shallow or complacent. Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, suffered literal, bloody death for the sake of reconciliation, so that we sinful humans might live at peace with the one and only righteous God, here and for eternity. Our souls can rest because we don’t have to worry about our status with God anymore. Instead, we are now commanded to do as has been done unto us. This ministry of reconciliation is powerful and mandated for all Christians, or “mini-Christs.” Anabaptists believe that the peace position is not optional, not marginal, and not related mainly to the military.
This peace, a result of having God’s Spirit dwelling in us, also extends from our spiritual life into the physical world we live in each day. Peace seeks justice, harmony, the wellbeing of others, particularly those who are not physically or societally “well.” (The sick don’t need a doctor, after all.) And it does this without violence; it loves instead of hating or taking revenge. Anabaptists renounce violence in human relationships.
Isn’t that beautiful? Here we have Christians – and not only individuals but also on a structural, organized level – standing up against violence, including violence towards marginalized people. One need only look up their missions work to see that this is true.
To renounce violence in human relationships is to agree that domestic violence is a sin, and to recognize that the physical, verbal, and emotional violence breaks the King of king’s heart. Moreover, rape is a sin, it is never the survivor’s fault, and the intense violation there breaks God’s heart as well as the survivor (usually a woman)’s body and potential place in society.
Gun violence by anyone, gang violence, massacring towns with machetes and drowning the victims, the prolific abuse of power to violate marginalized and poor people – these are sins, and they go directly against the holistic peace or Shalom God intends.
My rapper friend Blackman Bausi (see “The world changers“) always says that peace is love. Amani ni upendo. This means working together towards harmony, against violence, towards lasting solutions. He’s a big proponent of that in the Democratic Republic of Congo, his home. And the Anabaptists agree: We see peace and reconciliation – the way of love – as being at the heart of the Christian gospel.
Again, this call to peace is not something we can choose to ignore. Not if we’re trying to honor God and walk in step with his Spirit. Turning the other cheek instead of retaliating, standing up for those who cannot fight for their own rights, putting others first, persevering… God gave his followers this ethic not as a point to ponder, but as a command to obey.
Jesus put his status on the line for people who needed his physical, emotional, and spiritual healing. Some responded in kind, with love and dedication, and others left him without so much as a thank you. Jesus put his bodily life on the line for people who spat in his face, tore the flesh off his back, and made him out to be the worst kind of criminal when he was actually offering chance at redemption and reconciliation with their Creator.
And some of his disciples, including contemporary Christians, undergo similar fates. But what kind of faith, hope, or love do we have if we do not live our lives in thankfulness and obedience to the Lord who went through hell to bring us to himself? And there is blessing at the end. It was costly for Jesus and it may also be costly for his followers.
I find that different Christian denominations and faith streams inform each other’s understanding of God and his Kingdom. In this case, the Anabaptists put it well. The way of peace is a way of life.
“The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’” While singing a hymn about Jesus, I take a cracker piece from a silver platter and pass it to the Believer next to me. Everyone in the room eats the bread as one, partaking in the first “course” in the Lord’s Supper, otherwise known as Communion or the Eucharist.
Crunch, crunch, mangled flesh. The image revolts me, yet I am chewing this flesh. Raw. It is Jesus’ body, which he sacrificed for me.
“In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me. For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.’” All around me, heads tip backwards as together we sip grape juice from tiny plastic cups. We are proclaiming Christ Jesus’ death. We celebrate the victory of grace Jesus demonstrated when he took our eternal punishment on the Gethsemane cross.
Swallow, gulp, fragrant blood. I shudder; perhaps the woman next to me notices, but she is silent. I detect an aftertaste from the juice. I picture Jesus’ blood on the cross, in my mouth, in my body now, shed for the forgiveness of my sins. For the redemption of the world.
I was raised to view Communion symbolically. I still lean that way. But my Christian Thought class from last spring opened up faith conversations with which I was not always familiar. For example, Roman Catholicism claims we are eating Christ’s actual flesh and drinking his actual blood when we take Communion. This phenomenon known as transubstantiation is derived from Gospel passages like the ones I quoted. Ever since I learned about this, Communion has become a more vivid and powerful reminder of Jesus’ saving sacrifice.
That is the point. At his Last Supper, the Jewish Passover, Jesus began the Christian tradition of Communion, but he never meant for it to be a thoughtless ritual. I do not want to forget his sacrifice despite its physical repulsiveness.
At the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ, the crowds did not see a handsome, naked man with a perfectly combed beard on some smooth planked pedestal. Nay, they witnessed a bloody, gnarled, practically dismembered body essentially lynched on couple tree branches shaped like a T.
They came to view the humiliation of the two convicts alongside my perfect King, but I don’t know why they were drawn to the inhuman spectacle.
Yet I too am drawn to it, only in a different way. Jesus uses the Communion Table to draw me to himself, for I am part of his body now. His Spirit is in me, and I am his. I do not desire to view his formerly grotesque body in any bloodthirsty manner. Rather, I am grateful, so grateful, that he sacrificed his body for the world and thus for me, so I can spend eternity with God, whole and redeemed and new.
Jesus is full of grace and truth. I must remember him and proclaim his deep love, as demonstrated in his body and blood.
For this reason, I eat his flesh and drink his blood until he returns. And Jesus is coming soon! When he gathers his Church to him and makes all things new, we shall drink wine again in his heavenly kingdom, this time in celebration. The members of his Church, his Body and Bride, will have new bodies. We will be complete and whole, for he is making all things new.
Until then, I remember him. I proclaim his death until his coming. And through his death, I live.
Today is the anniversary of the most life-changing day I’ve lived, and I hope you’ll allow me to tell you about it. Gather around, dear friends. Make yourselves comfortable, and brace yourselves for my testimony.
Fourteen years ago I was preparing to enter Kindergarten. I was a short, curly haired thing much like I am today, but I was a beaming child back, so I was a little shorter. I already loved words, and I was excited to go to school.
Fourteen years ago it was summer—July 2, 2001, to be precise. The sky by my house was its clear, summery self, and I stood underneath it, toeing the edge of our paved driveway. The glory of God was about to be manifest.
Fourteen years ago and 20 minutes away, my grandpa was in a coma in his house in Southington. It was the eve of his entrance into eternity.
Fourteen years ago my mom told me about eternity.
Fourteen years ago, having heard about Heaven and Hell and knowing I needed Jesus to save me from my sin, I gave my life to him. To put it succinctly, I became a Christian. The angels rejoiced in Heaven, and I ran to tell my parents about my newfound hope and joy—a continuing joy.
Why I’m Still A Christian
Fourteen years later, my faith hasn’t changed. I’ve been a Christian for 14 of my 19 years, nearly 75% of my life. That’s crazy! And it’s awesome! Let me tell you why:
- I’ve seen God’s faithfulness at work as He continually provides the basic necessities in life for my family and me—practically literal daily bread. For example, just yesterday my financial aid package came though, and I was awarded an extra grant that will help enable me to keep attending college. Praise the Lord!
- He has brought healing to my relationships and to my scarred heart, and I’ve seen him work forgiveness in fellow believers as well. I could write books about these stories if I could find the emotional energy, time, and proper words to capture them.
- God has revealed his love, glory and power through people I know and people I’ve only just met. He’s given me peace through the prayers of my faith-full friends such as Magda this Tuesday, and He’s shown me his glory through people who don’t know him such as the man I met at the library last week. I want everyone to know God!
- He has let me glimpse his justice, holiness, joy and Kingdom through my friends. I call to mind the Asian/Asian-American group at my college.
- He has continually drawn me to him through his Word in the Bible and to me in person. He’s also directed my future in this manner. Y’all know I’m going to DRC soon. That’s all because God has prepared good works for me to do there for His glory. 🙂
God has used music and nature, people and stillness, to reveal himself to me. God is here, and I can’t even begin to explain how awesome He is. I’m eternally grateful to be the LORD’s—and I can say that completely honestly because I will dwell in his house forever. I have been reborn and adopted into his family! I will rejoice in Him always and keep pressing towards him.
Doesn’t he sound amazing?! Don’t stop reading, please. Let me share just a little more about my God!
Gains and Losses
We need God. To understate our situation, we’re a hot mess without him. We’re actually damned. We’re so broken that all the money, sex, music, social media, TV, friends, volunteering, time spent at work, success, awards, good grades, food, caffeine, sleeping pills, alcohol and weed can’t fix us. We’re not good enough for God. The only thing we are good for is Hell, which, by the way, is not the same as this earth. Hell is worse. There isn’t even any water to refresh the parched mouths there. Yet we deserve to die. We’re not good enough for God, so without him to save us, we have to be separated from him forever and placed in Hell.
Thankfully, God is merciful and loving, and he calls all of us broken, sinful, wicked and mediocre people to him. (Every one of us is all of those things without Christ, even the best of us.) We’re the tax collector that extorted money from the people. We’re the woman who couldn’t stay married or the one who slept around. We’re also the average-Joe destined to work a blue-collar job our whole lives. We’re all those people and more—the nobodies, really—but God looked at us and said, “Hey, I want you. I want you, Jared. I want you, Hala. I want you, Jessica and Donna and Ron. I’ll make a way for you to be with me, because you are my priceless treasure.”
Thus he sent Jesus Christ, prophesied as the Messiah called Immanuel, “God with us.” Jesus is God in flesh. He’s everything we’re not but can aim to imitate. He’s the ultimate example of humility and love, and we don’t deserve to know him, but he pursues us so hard that we can’t run away. His Spirit will work on those God has called until we’re so wrapped in God’s love that we can’t escape it. He’ll renew our spirits and change our hearts. He’ll give us hope and purpose both now and forever. If we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, we will have eternal life, and we’ll lose ourselves and find God as we sing his praises with the angels someday: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”
I’m so glad to be able to worship God now, and I’m elated to be with all my brothers and sisters in Christ someday. What a choir that will be! What a God I serve! He’s the most forgiving being I could ever know, and I’m so humbled by him.
I want you to know him too. I want you to rest in his love, to be sucked into his justice and mercy, to be awed by his righteousness, to be his. If you don’t know him yet, I pray that this day will mark an anniversary for you, too—the day God redeemed you from the pit and sealed you with his Spirit.
Feel free to contact me here if you want to chat about this or share your story.
Jesus is coming back soon, and while I’m thrilled for that day, my heart is breaking for those of you who aren’t. I want to go to Heaven with you; I don’t want you to live apart from him. I want to praise God with you; God deserves it. He’s worthy of all the praise he can get. Will you surrender your praise to Jesus today?
“Life has many blessings; cherish them. Maintaining loving relationships and enjoying the basic things of life are more important than wealth.” -Ms. Cookie Yopp
Lately I’ve been missing Connecticut, the state in which I was socialized, and some dear people there such as my second family, the Vecchios. While enjoying the warming temperatures at Wheaton, I’ve been reminiscing on sunny Saturday mornings spent at the Cheshire High School track cheering for Dad’s long distance runners. I’ve also been remembering the importance of some things I learned more recently in another place that shaped me: Denver, where I learned the importance of introspection and rest.
Today I am enforcing those disciplines for the few hours I have free. After church and brunch, I returned to my room to relax and do some crafts, exhausted from being with so many people all week and having to talk every hour. While delving into my craft supplies, I found old cards from my high school graduation.
“We’re proud of you,” my friends, cousins, aunts and uncles wrote. They told me they loved me and that I am welcomed and amazing. They also encouraged me to keep pursuing Jesus.
I do not repeat their comments out of pride but rather out of a deep sense of amazement that I could be so loved. I thrive on words of affirmation and also need to keep hearing them to remember the truth about who I am. Someone saying “I’m proud of you” has a crazy impact on me. Reading my friends’ notes about my talents encouraged me, and nearly everybody brought their point back to God: Follow His ways. Trust Him. Love Him.
I’d like to share from these graduation cards some words of wisdom similar to the proverb at the top. Please be encouraged and amazed at how mighty God is.
“As long as you remember to keep God a vital part in your life, you really can’t go wrong.” -Rachel Wittman
“The enemy trembles at your advance, because you and Jesus are one, and your love for Him is greater than all else…Keep your lion-like boldness and let your dreams know no boundaries, because you have seen that with God, nothing is impossible.” -Erica Kyne
“(The Lord) has a plan and a path for your life. Be sensitive to His leading.” -Mr. and Mrs. Harris
“(God) will never let you down!” -cousins Kelly and Mike Heckman
“Hold on to your faith and you will go far in life.” -Jessica Bennett (my French prez)
“This is an exciting time for you, and God will guide you every step of the way.” -Aunt Theresa Boyes
“But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” -2 Chronicles 15:7 (from Aunt Sue and Uncle Tom Gerace)
“Just remember that you don’t have to have it all figured out and you’ll never be alone with God by your side. Don’t get overwhelmed; let God handle the decisions. And HAVE FUN! Enjoy life and remember it only comes once (on earth!)” -Sarah Bennett (the friend, not cousin)
With this in mind, have a restful Sunday and a Spirit-led rest of the year! (I say that as a college student nearing the end of my second undergraduate year, unsure of what comes next.)
In God’s grace,
“But the beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair.” -Relient K
Whenever Mr. Franklin Harris snoozes at church, I wonder if the ninety-five year old man with whom I sit will awake again. He is a wonderful example of someone who loves Jesus, and he brims with wisdom. His body is frail, though.
He recognizes his disability consisting of his inability to stand for long and his use of a walker. Mr. Harris is more hunched than my grandma was, and she went from being a tall woman to one under five feet. Every week I half expect to hear news of Mr. Harris’s passing simply because he is so aged and frail. Seeing him nod off again today reminded me that these bodies in which we live are only shells.
The body is
Soon it will be empty
like a hermit
Where will your soul
Every time Mr. Harris mentions his heart surgery from a few years back, current doctor appointments, or his frail body, he turns those same sentences into clauses worshipping His Creator. Week after week he reminds me, “God is good.”
Mr. Harris doesn’t know why he remained alive after his heart surgery but to glorify God and share Jesus for a little while longer.
Mr. Harris reminded me of God’s faithfulness when I was grieving my aunt’s death last month. I asked him how to grieve properly, and he replied that he had a wife years and years ago who died, and his second wife also passed away. He clearly knows heartache, but the Sunday I asked about grief, he recognized God’s faithfulness in the midst of pain.
Whenever my ninety-five year old friend leaves this earth, I will rejoice that he will have left pain and heartache behind. He will meet his Savior, Jesus Christ, and see God’s face for all of eternity. I will grieve my loss, not his.
He has been excited about knowing Jesus and has been faithful to God since he was a child going to saw-dust and chair-lined revival meetings with his mother. Today he told me that he was excited about Jesus then and wanted to tell his friends about Him, and he said that still has not stopped.
Mr. Harris points every conversation back to God, and I know that when his soul leaves his bodily shell, rejoicing will ensue. I will grieve him as I would a dear friend or close family member, but my soul will be delighted for him, wishing I could go as well.
Dear readers, I need to tell you a story of God’s healing. It is not a new story, for it happened last semester, but I want to share it with you so that God can be glorified by more people than just my immediate friends who knew about it when it occurred.
In the fall, my wrist began to hurt badly. When the pain began, my roommate prayed over me. As soon as she was done, she asked if it was better. It was not. It swelled and throbbed.
After a few days, I went to the nurse at Student Health Services because the pain was growing worse. While it wasn’t sharp pain, it was the kind that never left. I couldn’t write for long or play piano, and the pain nearly brought me to tears.
The nurse gave me a wrist wrap and told me to ice the area and take anti-inflammatory pain relievers. She said it was tendonitis and had probably ensued from having so much typing to do and not placing my wrists on the laptop keyboard ergonomically. She recommended buying a pad upon which to rest my wrists as I worked on my computer.
I wrapped my wrist, iced it on and off for days, borrowed a friend’s brace, and leaned my wrists on some rolled up cloth when I typed. Despite these things, I still had to take many breaks while I did my homework, and while the brace was helpful, the pain remained.
About a week after my wrist pain began, I had to help lead worship for a Bible study and for bro-sis worship afterwards. I was supposed to play guitar and sing that Wednesday night, but I was still quite injured and could not play guitar. After praying that someone would be able to replace my guitar position, I bumped into a girl from my sister floor who knew someone who could help at bro-sis worship. Thanks be to our God who hears our prayers!
Another friend covered my guitar part for the first half of Bible study, and we made do with just the piano when she had to leave. When we arrived at a song we hadn’t practiced together, I took over on piano, despite my injured wrist. It still hurt. My friend Wes resumed his place at the piano afterwards, and I went back to leading the vocals.
While I was singing, God told me to lift up my hand. I obeyed, and suspecting something miraculous had just happened, I tested it out, moving my wrist around and using it to do normal things that had hurt me mere minutes before. God had indeed healed my wrist!
I was astounded and grateful to God for this, but I couldn’t figure out why He had healed me.
I wrestle with the thought of healing, for I know that God can and does heal, but I also think that some people want to be healed for every little thing and may end up missing Jesus in the healing. Furthermore, I know that God is sometimes glorified more when people are not healed than if He had physically healed them. An example of this is David McClain, a man who has lived with ALS longer than he “should” have and who has joyously spread the Gospel through his suffering. I do not believe God will always heal those who pray, nor should he. Our eyes must be joyously focused on Jesus regardless of physical pain or healing.
I question what the purpose of healing is. Multiple people in the Bible were healed by faith, and Jesus forgave their sins before announcing their healing. Others followed Jesus after He healed them. This makes it seems as if He heals so that people will come to Him. However, Jesus also had compassion on the crowds and healed thousands of sick people, and they did not all believe Him to be the Messiah. So what was the purpose?
Perhaps He healed these people out of pure love in the face of human sin and rebellion. This foreshadows the Gospel story: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ [Jesus] died for us” (Romans 5:8). Isn’t it beautiful? God makes His glory known in ways that we cannot understand, yet I love catching glimpses of it.
Another Scripture passage dealing with healing is found in the book of James. It can be found towards the end in the section devoted to prayer. This passage has furthered my curiosity about the purpose of healing. Please note that I’m purposely leaving out the reference so that you might read the entirety of the short book and discover its full message.
I know that God heals. His healing me filled me with awe and wonder and praise for Him.
After pondering why God healed me, I came to the conclusion that God healed me just to show that He could. I’ll repeat that: The only reason I could ascertain about my healing was that God healed me just to show that He could. Saying this brings me joy: I serve a God who heals! He is all-mighty, He does care for His people immensely, and He is always wonderful and worthy of our praise.
I serve the God who heals.