Anabaptist Mission & Peace – Day 1

Class today was amazing.  It’s the most immersed I’ve ever been in sheer Anabaptism.  Our teacher, David Shenk, was fascinating and inspiring.  And he brought in three speakers who shared some of their experiences and what they’ve learned from them.  They told the kinds of stories I’ve only read about in books or seen in movies; the difference is that they were sharing firsthand accounts.

David, who was born and raised by missionary parents in Tanzania, told about a time he was sharing a stage before a Muslim audience in a Muslim country.  Someone in the crowd posed this question: You say that you’re a follower of Jesus, and that Jesus taught peace.  Yet your President invaded Iraq–and not only does he say he’s a Christian, but he was re-elected by Christians even after he started this war!  How can you explain that?

As I sat there thinking, Wow!  I’m glad I don’t have to answer that!, David told us to talk in small groups and tell each other how we would answer that question.  What can you say?

After we discussed it and batted around some possible answers, he finally told us what he said.  Of course, he was on the spot at the time, in front of a large Muslim crowd in a foreign country, and didn’t have time to think about it.  He told us that he silently prayed something like, “Lord, You promised the Spirit would tell us what to say at times like this, so… uh… get crackin’!”

David told the crowd: “The nation-state is not the Kingdom of God… The nation-state is not the Kingdom I represent.”  He then explained how the Mennonite Church wrote a letter to President Bush urging him to consider options other than war, gathered 7,000 signatures, and delivered it to the White House.

By the way, he found out later that his reply was televised!

After recounting this event to us, he prayed: “May God forgive us for the inadequacy of our witness.”

All day long we heard incredible firsthand stories of extreme forgiveness and grace, told by David and the guest speakers: Peter Sensenig, Don Jacobs, and Linda Witmer.  I’d expected that a nine-hour class might get tiresome at some point, but it never did–not for a single solitary second.  I’m excited about the next session!

The day was enormously challenging as I was continuously confronted with the power of the Gospel in action.  Some highlights:

  • “When Muslims see Christians worshiping, they say, ‘It sounds like they’re having a party.’  And I say, ‘You’re right!'” (David Shenk on Muslim converts to Christianity in Africa)
  • The story of Paulus Hartono, a pastor in Indonesia.  He befriended the Hezbollah commander who was personally responsible for the deaths of many Christian pastors and the burning of many Christian churches.  Paulus became good friends with this man, who on multiple occasions has been so overwhelmed by the love of the Christians he’s persecuted that he’s broken down in front of his troops.  These days, the commander is personally involved in preventing the persecution of Christians and destruction of churches.
  • After sharing the story about Paulus Hartono, one of the students asked David why this kind of peace building isn’t spreading around the world.  I love his reply: “It is spreading around the world!”
  • To be a good neighbor means to be a blessing.
  • The church is called to be a blessing.
  • After talking about how God came down to meet with Moses, David said: “God has been in the coming-down-and-meeting-with-people business ever since!”
  • When God meets with us, He has a mission.
  • Jesus always has the last word.
  • “The Gospel is very, very practical in its applications.”  (David Shenk)
  • “Our identity in the world is vital.”  (Peter Sensenig on the church’s international reputation)
  • “We reject violence because we are ambassadors of Christ.”  (Peter Sensenig)
  • “We love our enemies because that’s what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.”  (Peter Sensenig)
  • In the early church, violence was not just rejected–it was replaced by the pursuit of justice.
  • Peacemaking is a positive, proactive practice–not simply a negative condemnation of war.
  • In revival, the cross of Christ is always central.
  • “Reconciliation doesn’t work if you stay in your camps.  Jesus suffered outside the camp.”  (Don Jacobs)
  • Sin is what divides us and creates hostility.  Therefore, it is the cleansing blood of Christ that brings reconciliation.
  • Forgiveness is a way of life.
  • We forgive because we’ve been forgiven.
  • No hostility or anger will get into heaven–get rid of it now!
  • Loyalty to Jesus must be placed above all other loyalties.
Published in: on October 12, 2007 at 8:00 pm  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Nathan, I wish I could attend these meetings. I grew up in the Mennonite Church and have never gotten that kind of education! It just didn’t come across to me as a child, then teen, in the Mennonite Church–unfortunately. I wish this could be said differently for the kids in the Mennonite church today, but I’m afraid it’s no different for them.

  2. True. We’ll just have to change that, won’t we?

  3. Yes, and you are, especially now with the Creed series. Thank you!

  4. We should also start taking advantage of some of the opportunities provided by our conference. For example, there’s a guy with peacemaking experience in Vietnam that we could bring in to speak early next spring. I’ll bring the info to the next Worship Planning meeting.

  5. Great!

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