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From the Anabaptists: Schlaffer on love and sacrifice

Posted by on May 4, 2012 in church history, community, love | 10 comments

From the Anabaptists: Schlaffer on love and sacrifice

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.


10 Comments

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  1. 5-4-2012

    There are some of us in the churches that inherited the Anabaptist faith that want to get back to our roots in this. Not necessarily throw away the beautiful things of corporate worship, but to take our faith outside of the few hours once a week and make it a reality 24/7

  2. 5-4-2012

    I do have a question for you, Alan. When many Mennonites here about others finding Anabaptism and enjoying what they are finding, those Mennonites tend to focus on whether or not those people are adopting the peace and justice witness. Is that part of Anabaptism as critical to you as some other item? Why or why not?

  3. 5-4-2012

    I see the belief, (commitment) does it ever go too far? did the anababtist’s ever go too far in this commitment? For I know as a man believes so is he. Would they kill another over their commitment? Another I mean one that does not believe the way they do?
    Thanks Howard

  4. 5-4-2012

    Howard, there was a group who did (go google the Muenster Rebellion) but, for the most part, Anabaptists followed Christ’s law of love where they would themselves submit to death rather than kill, even in self-defense. I speak as a Mennonite (one of the church groups that came out of the Anabaptist movement).

  5. 5-4-2012

    Thank you Robert, So as stephen did in front of Saul, before he became Paul. I have always respected this history in Acts of Stephen, which i am sure it had to start Saul to thinking prior to being on the road to Damascus. It sounds as if the anababtists were really believers and had received the mercy of God. For I have come to believe that without receiving the mercy of God, one cannot move into the new life eating from the tree of life. Is forgiven though, I just found that what I need more than anything else is mercy from God then I can see as Job did in the old testament, and apparently as the Anababtists.
    Thank you again
    Howard

  6. 5-4-2012

    Robert,

    I would say that Schaffer’s quote is a beautiful picture of corporate worship. What do the Anabaptist descendents around you teach about the “sitzerrecht” today?

    Howard,

    Robert has already answered your question, but one thing that makes this part of history complicated is that the civic officials (which included religious figures) used the derogatory term “Anabaptist” to refer to almost anyone who disagreed with them. But, like Robert said, most of the people associated with the ones I’ve quoted chose to die instead of fight.

    -Alan

  7. 5-4-2012

    According to our official confession:

    “Other claims on our understanding of Christian faith and life, such as tradition, culture, experience, reason, and political powers, need to be tested and corrected by the light of Holy Scripture”

    The general idea is as you described in your article on “sitzerrecht”, that Scripture is core, and that everyone can read and comment on it, but communal commentary is important. I think, though, that in practice we typically listen to the teaching of others and trust their intepretation rather than communal conversation.

    Meanwhile, what we started at my home church is, after the morning message, host a SS class where the speaker can continue the conversation after the fact, allowing others to speak in, ask questions, and explore together. In a men’s study I’ve been attending, we’re reading through the book of James together and, rather than have a set lesson series, are simply discussing what we’re reading and how to apply it.

    So..officially, in our traditional congregations, not so much sitzerrecht…but in practice in a number of areas, still encouraged and fostered.

  8. 5-4-2012

    I have great respect for someone to go to the death for their belief as Stephen did in acts. But when twin towers went down those believers in their faith which to me were deceived, also went to their death for their cause. Jim Jones was another one. The comet another. So to me I am to be wise as a serphent and harmless as a dove. And actually these are all differant matters. But on both sides of the coin it goes to show me that as a man thinks with out a doubt in his heart he will do. So to me I watch what i think by sifting it in my heart to The Holy Ghost of my heart, and hear sometimes take no thought and thus the wrong thought is gone. It takes thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ
    Howard

  9. 5-5-2012

    Robert,

    Thanks for the information about “sitzerrecht.” It seems to have been a big deal for many among the sixteenth century Anabaptists, and for good reason. I’m sorry to hear that many have abandoned it.

    Howard,

    The source and focus of a person’s faith is very important. I’m sure you’d agree with that, but that’s the big difference between the sixteenth century Anabaptists and the others you listed.

    -Alan

  10. 5-6-2012

    Thanks for that info Alan
    Howard