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.