Rooted Week 2 - Peacemaking and Simplicity
Lat week we began a new series titled “Rooted”. We started looking at the roots of where our church comes from.,, what makes us tick. Over the three week span of this series I will cover six key distinctive’s of our Anabaptist history. Last week we covered as an introduction, two of the most distinctive identity markers of the Anabaptist’s.
Adult Baptist or re-baptizing, which is what the word Anabaptist means.
Jesus as our Example.
The Christ centered nature of our theological and practical thinking. We looked at how Anabaptist’s see everything through the lens of Jesus. In Christ we see the full nature of God, therefore we view all of scripture through the lens of the person and work of Jesus. He revealed God to us, and we are to become just like Him.
Disciples of Jesus, followers of the ways of Christ, this is the centerpiece of all of our theological and practical thinking. It’s who we are. We Jesus people. He lived the life we are called to live.
The Sermon on the Mount is a key text that drives our thinking and way of approaching living life for Christ.
It is out of this worldview that come the next two distinctive’s that we are going to look at this morning.
One note to remember, even though we come from a Mennonite background, this series is not dealing with the ethnic history of our denomination. Instead we are focusing on what drives our theological thinking.
Ok, that being said, lets dive into our two distinctive’s for today.
Living a Life of Simplicity
Living a Life of Simplicity
Rooted in the mindset of Jesus being our example our first distinctive today is simplicity. Living in the world but not being of this world. The early Anabaptist’s believed that in order to live as disciples of Jesus we needed to be distinctly different then the world around us. One of the key texts that drove this thinking outside of the Sermon on the Mount is found in 1 John:
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
Loving the world to an Anabaptist would drive you away from following Christ. Historically, this became something that Anabaptist’s took very seriously. So much so that some groups became totally separate communities that alienated themselves from the culture around them.
The early Anabaptist we persecuted so badly that they separated from the world in order to survive. This survival became something that caused the Anabaptist to become legalistic about. They were so driven by not letting the world corrupt their way of living for Jesus that they purposely stayed away from the material things of the world.
Many of you have seen people from this way of life, not owning cars, wearing simple plain clothing, staying away from technology, and the ways of the rest of the world. Living in separate communities and only engaging with culture when they absolutely have to.
The challenge to this is the legalism it created. They were so driven to stay away from the things of the world that they would analyze everything, and make community rules on how everyone dressed etc. So much so that if something became a trend in the world that was similar to something they did, they would change it.
A good example of this was the beard. The married men wore the mark of a beard. In culture at one point, people began to curl their stash as a fashion statement. To counter this, the Anabaptist made a rule, no man could have a stash. So they has a beard, but no stash.
You see how something with good intentions can become legalistic, and have nothing to do with the scripture that drove it.
The passage we read in 1 John calls us to a life of simplicity, but not how it was once interpreted.
What John is telling his readers is to not love the world because the world is focused on self, on being flashing and prideful.
The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life. These are things that will distract you from being a disciple of Christ. But, hiding from the world and wearing simple clothing, being poor, these things miss the point.
A simple way to look at what living a simple life looks like according to the passage is rooted in how we think, what drives our worldview.
Do you strive to have possessions, to be rich, to be important, so that people will notice you. Is this what drives your thinking. Because if it is then John would say you love the things of the world, and they are distracting you from Christ. You love the world more then Jesus.
The passage calls us to a simple life by calling us to understand that there is nothing in this world worth holding onto as our identity. Our identity is found in Jesus, not material stuff, not wealth, not social status.
We are called to lives of simplicity, which means we center our lives around Jesus, not stuff. We are driven in life around the world of the cross, not pride of what we have.
The simple life is a life that sees the stuff as not being the most important thing in our lives, instead Jesus is. You can have the stuff as long as you are willing to let it all go, as long as it is not what drives your identity.
Anabaptist would hold a value of others above keeping up with the Jones's. In other words, they would practice the Acts two life of making sure everyone’s needs were met, rather then showing that they had more then another. Generosity is more important then having stuff.
So we are called as disciples of Christ to simple lives, meaning Christ drives our lives, not material gain. You can have the stuff, but don’t love the stuff so much that it becomes who you are.
This is why the early Anabaptist’s stayed away from the stuff, they felt it would corrupt them. So they did everything they could to stay away from things that would corrupt them.
Simplicity is something that we need the Holy Spirit to guide and convict. If we are focusing on the world rather then Jesus, we need to repent and change. Focus our hearts and our minds on what truly matters, our relationship with Jesus.
The second distinctive we are going to look at this morning is a big one for Anabaptist.
Love and Non-Resistance
Love and Non-Resistance
As you study the Anabaptist movement you would soon find out that their position of pacifism was more of a posture of peacemaking.
In October of 2006 there was a story in the news about a tragic shooting of Amish school children in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. The story itself was not the remarkable part, unfortunately there are shooting often in the United States. The remarkable piece of the story was how the Amish community responded to the shooting. They expressed forgiveness toward the gunman and reached out in compassion toward his family.
This reaction many would call pacifism, but I would argue that pacifism stands back and does nothing, whereas peacemaking acts. This Amish community could have just forgiven the gunman, not retaliated but stayed quiet. However, they didn’t, instead they acted, but not the action most would choose. Instead of getting back at the gunman and his family, they made the effort to forgive and reached out to his family in compassion. This is the posture of peacemaking.
The call to biblical peacemaking challenges us to be more than passive non-resistors.
The word “peacemaker” combines the meaning of well-being or wholeness with the idea of action. A peacemaker is one who actively intervenes in situations of conflict in order to establish peace.
Jesus teaches that one of the ways to live as peacemakers is to refuse retaliation. The idea is both clear and radical. Do not resist but turn the other cheek. Do not insist on legal rights. Surrender personal property. Do not resist those who demand assistance. Give money instead of lending when a loan is requested.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
The Gospel according to Luke observes that we should refuse retaliation because of who God is. He is a God of grace and mercy. We should therefore respond to oppressors in like manner.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
These are the things that drive a peacemaker. The proactive biblical warrant for peacemaking is not only emphasized in the Gospels. The apostles describe the life of believing community in the same manner.
Followers of Christ are to serve their enemies:
On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Return good for evil:
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
Do good to all people:
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Pursue peace with all people:
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.
Peacemaking is much more then simply refusing to retaliate. It is much more Christ centered than that. It involves loving our oppressors, and loving the people who hate us.
Instead of hate, retaliation, and all the other things that the world sees as normal when someone has been wronged. Christ followers are called to live as Jesus did, to act as Jesus did. Jesus calls those who follow him to “love their neighbors”
This is the kingdom way, the kingdom of God calls us to love and not resist, the kingdom of this world fights back, resists:
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
All of these characteristics represent the ways of Jesus Christ, and a disciple of Jesus is someone who follows his ways. Alison Morgan in her book “Following Jesus” says:
Becoming a Christian disciple is not about joining a church and attending Sunday services; it’s about embracing a personal relationship with Jesus, setting out on a journey which will bring change not just to what we do but to the very essence of who we are.
The world says an eye for an eye, if someone threatens your livelihood, take them out, act first and make sure you win. But Jesus changes our hearts through the power of grace, and that grace must be passed on to everyone we know. This is what being Jesus means in a world that is broken and absent of Christ.
Peacemaking is something Jesus calls us to as followers of his way. It is part of Christ’s mission of the church. Peacemaking is active, evangelistic and Jesus-centered. Jesus calls us to join the peacemaker family.
He opens his Kingdom address (the Sermon on the Mount) with the Beatitudes:
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus blesses the peacemakers, He sees them as children of God. Then he goes on to give a series of case studies to illustrate how he came to fulfill the law through a greater righteousness:
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
It is obvious that Jesus believed that peace and reconciliation was the way God wanted his church to live out their faith. The New Testament letters describe members of the believing community as ministers of reconciliation. They serve their enemies, return good for evil, pursue peace with all people.
This link of peacemaking and reconciliation is also important. Not only are we to seek peace, but we are to also seek resolution to our differences. Jesus made us right with God through his reconciling work on the cross, his church is called to actively live as people of peace and reconciliation.
Earlier I told the story of an Amish community that publicly forgave the person who walked into their school and killed their loved ones. Not only did they forgive, but they reached out to the family of the shooter with love and compassion. The interesting thing about this story is how the news coverage shifted. The coverage was no longer focused on the shooter, on the tragedy itself, the peacemaking action of the Amish community became the focus. People couldn’t believe that this community would be willing to forgive and offer love to the shooter’s family. The act of peacemaking turned the focus from tragedy to Jesus. This is what peacemaking does. It’s counter-cultural and Jesus centric.
When we fight, when we react the same way the world does, people don’t see Jesus, they just see the ways of the world. Love and non-resistance are counter-cultural, they are very noticeable, and this posture shows people the true nature of God.
This posture was the posture of Christ!
But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.
Jesus trusted the Father who judges justly. He didn’t judge, he left that up to the Father. Instead he didn’t act like the world acts, he loved like God loves.
Imagine the difference in the world the church could make if it truly took the posture of Jesus.
Big Idea: Jesus shows us with his life the posture of simplicity and active peacemaking. It’s is part of what was so attractive about his life, and it is one of the most obvious teachings in the New Testament. The church today would be more attractive if it would live with a posture of love, rather then a posture of hate, judgment, and worldliness.