Last week, I enjoyed reading an article about Anabaptists and writing about that article in my post “Which Distinctive Practices and Beliefs of Anabaptists are Important for the Church Today?” Reading that article, writing the post, and following the discussion in the comments reminded me of a great book that I read online last year called “The Secret of the Strength.” One of the things that I love about that book is that the author (Peter Hoover) includes many, many quotations from the Anabaptists themselves.
For the next few days, I’m going to post a few of those quotations. You may not agree with everything they wrote, but hopefully they will help us thinking about our new life in Jesus Christ.
This quotation was written by Hans Schlaffer just before he was beheaded in 1528:
The body of Christ on the earth is the Gemeinschaft (community) of those who believe on him. Whoever eats the bread of the nighttime meal expresses with that his desire to live in Gemeinschaft with this body and to be a part of it in all things—to stick with the Gemeinschaft though joy and sorrow, riches and poverty, honour and shame, mourning and rejoicing, death and life. He expresses his desire to give everything he has, both body and life for his brothers even as Christ gave himself for us.
When I read this short quote, I can’t help but notice the connection: Christ to the body of Christ and the body of Christ to one another. It’s a seamless connection to Schlaffer. Even sharing the nighttime meal (“communion” for the Anabaptists) is much more than sharing food. It is a recognition of their relationship to one another through Christ.
And, because their relationship to one another was based on their relationship to Christ, they were committed to one another. I’m not talking about committed to meeting together once a week, or committed to some program or leadership structure. They gave their lives – physically and spiritually – for one another.
Consider Schlaffer’s description: “to stick with the community though joy and sorrow, riches and poverty, honour and shame, mourning and rejoicing, death and life.” Does it sound familiar? Does it sound like the promises that a husband makes to a wife?
You see, even today we recognize the spiritual commitment between a husband and a wife. But, do we recognize that Scripture describes the same kind of spiritual commitment between brothers and sisters in Christ?
We recognize the destruction that happens when a husband and wife relationship is severed. But, do we recognize that – in reality – similar damage happens when any relationship between brothers and sisters in Christ is severed.
When we recognize the importance of unity and fellowship among brothers and sisters in Christ, we will also begin to understand what it means to commit ourselves to one another in Jesus Christ.
Why was this type of commitment present among the Anabaptists? Because they were willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of others. They cared more about others than they cared about themselves.