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From the Anabaptists: Simons on love and community

Posted by on May 3, 2012 in church history, community, love | 11 comments

From the Anabaptists: Simons on love and community

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 Menno Simons in 1551:

We teach that all Christians are one body (1 Cor. 12:13). All partake of one bread (1 Cor. 10:18). All have one God (Eph. 4:5- 6). It is only reasonable that Christians care one for another. The entire Scriptures speak of mercy and love, the sign by which true Christians are known. “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:15).

It is not normal for a person to care for one part of his body and leave the rest uncared for and naked. No. The intelligent person cares for all his members. It is this way in the Lord’s church as well. All who are born of God and called into one body are prepared to serve their neighbours, not only with money and goods, but like Christ did, with life and blood. They show mercy as much as they can. No one among them is allowed to beg. They take strangers into their homes. They comfort the afflicted, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and do not turn their faces from the poor.

For the Anabaptists, everyone who was in Christ was also part of the kingdom of God and the community (Gemeinschaft) of believers, i.e. they were part of the church. And, the church cared for one another just as a human takes care of his entire body.

The important part of Simon’s quote is who he considered to be part of this “body” with him. Notice he begins with this: “all Christians are one body.” He does not distinguish. If he considers someone a Christian, then he also considers that person to be part of the church along with him. He is willing to lay down money, possessions, life, and blood for that person.

Not only is this service offered to all who are in Christ, it is also the work of all who are in Christ. He wrote, “All who are born of God and called into one body are prepared to serve their neighbours.” All. This is mutual service (ministry). Everyone is ready to serve whoever is in need of service. There is no sectarianism or divisions.

Today, if Christians care for and serve one another, they tend to do so within the boundaries of local church organizations. I do not think this is the kind of service that we see in the New Testament, and it’s not the kind of service that the Anabaptists displayed either.


11 Comments

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  1. 5-3-2012

    It is interesting to consider the context that Simons and other contemporary Anabaptists were writing in. They were speaking of unity and community and radical sharing in the midst of persecution by magisterial Reformers on the one hand and the Roman Catholics on the other. Shared suffering requires the church to be unified simply for preservation. The opposite also seems to be true. In a context where we have no appreciable persecution and are not asked to suffer for our faith we seem to divide and squabble out of sheer boredom.

  2. 5-3-2012

    I don’t know how one reads the NT seriously without landing here. The Body of Christ is described in completely unified (Eph. 4.1-6) and sacrificial terms (1 John 3.16). Self-giving love does define Jesus followers (or it should).

    I think the difficulty comes in when we seek to actually live this out. Churches often seek to do all they can, but no one church can do everything. How do we get local churches thinking in these terms? Not only are the individuals in the Body of Christ unified (so we should serve as many people as possible), but the churches are unified as well (churches should serve and partner with other churches in the area to accomplish more). But the daily reality is that we tend to operate in silos.

  3. 5-3-2012

    Darrell, perhaps the problem is thinking of the church in terms of individual local churches? When we create dictinctions between one another based on something other than our shared salvation, division is the necessary result because we say we are who we are for these reasons (listed on our statement of faith) and therefore you are not part of us in a meaningful way because your statement of faith, or denominations, or tradition or practice is different from mine.

  4. 5-3-2012

    Arthur,

    Yes, the context is very interesting. I know that we’ve talked about this briefly before, but I’m praying that it doesn’t take excessive persecution before the church realizes that it is not following Jesus in these kinds of matters.

    Darrell,

    Yes, exactly, unity in Christ is a central description of the church in the New Testament. I agree with Arthur that part of the problem is that many now view the church as individual and separate organizations. With that view of the church, it would be impossible for those separate organizations to live in this kind of unity.

    -Alan

  5. 5-3-2012

    Alan, I think 1 Corinthians 3:1-23 is a good description of the church today. What do you think?

    And I agree with this paragraph you wrote about anababtists:

    We teach that all Christians are one body (1 Cor. 12:13). All partake of one bread (1 Cor. 10:18). All have one God (Eph. 4:5- 6). It is only reasonable that Christians care one for another. The entire Scriptures speak of mercy and love, the sign by which true Christians are known. “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:15).
    Howard

  6. 5-3-2012

    Alan,

    Matthew 7:14 filled my mind as I read this.

  7. 5-3-2012

    Funny, I just posted John 13:15 on my Facebook status, before reading this article! That seems to keep happening…..

  8. 5-4-2012

    Howard,

    I suppose it depends on the people, but yes there are many “infants in Christ” among the church. I’m not concerned with infants – there should always be infants. I’m only concerned with those infants are not growing.

    Aussie John,

    You may be right.

    Sheree,

    That is an awesome passage, isn’t it?

    -Alan

  9. 5-4-2012

    Since you are concerned with those infants that are not growing. Then is a good basis to see, that they are not growing and to help those that are not through scripture as this to show them, when given that opportunity by The Holy Ghost? bringing them over to Hebrews 5:11-14 and Hebrews 6:1-3, from milk to meat. If read together from 5:11 as a whole to 6:1-3, as it ends if god will permit one to go from milk to meat.
    Anyway my two cents on ways to help grow the flock in Christ
    Thanks for the response
    Howard

  10. 5-5-2012

    Howard,

    I think there are several great passages of Scripture that give examples of how the Spirit works through us to help others grow in Christ. Eph 4:1-16 is one of my favorite passages concerning that, as well as Hebrews 12.

    -Alan

  11. 5-6-2012

    There are many and these you posted are also great. I just posted a latest post on my blogger. Tell me what you think or use it to post. I used guite a few scriptures about the freedom we have in Christ but definately not to excuse the flesh to sin,God forbid. But if you like use it if not toss it. Just another believer workiing out what has already been worked in as in all believers in Christ
    Thanks Howard