Archive for the ‘Separation & Nonconformity’ Category

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In:Miscellaneous, Modesty, Separation & Nonconformity, Sin, Youth

Comments Off on Fashion Passes Away

By Andrew V. Ste. Marie

 

Following fashion is a very common mistake – or shall we be bold enough to call it a sin? – which often goes unrebuked, with no warning against its dangers being heard.  Every year, when the fashion designers arbitrarily decide that the old fashion is over and the new is in, thousands – if not millions – dump their old clothes and buy new ones.  Better to be dead than out of style, it has been said, and apparently some live by this philosophy.  No matter how bizarre or outlandish the fashions are, the devoted slaves of the fashion goddess will obey her every dictate.  Brown, green, blue.  Tight pants, baggy pants, falling-down-behind pants.  Cut-away shoes, boost-you-in-the-air shoes, untied-shoes, long-pointy-square-toed shoes.  New clothes, new clothes, and more new clothes – until the fashion dictators declare that old clothes are in style – and the people buy more new clothes, artificially made to look old.  And every year less fabric overall is worn, more money is spent, and the worshippers of fashion waste time and money to fulfill their lusts – all while children starve the world over, the Chinese and others beg for Bibles, the cry of the poor ascends to the Lord of Sabaoth, and the fashion designers fill their pockets with ill-gotten gains.

 

What saith the Scripture?  The Apostle Paul wrote, “the fashion of this world passeth away” (I Corinthians 7:31b).  Obviously, he is referring to the physical form of this earth, but the statement is true of the type of fashion which we have been considering.  Such fashions are very temporary.  After a few years or even months, the fashions change, and all one’s labor to conform to the fashions is brought to nothing – no value – in a very brief time.  The pleasures associated with pleasing the goddess of fashion are likewise transitory.  Following fashion cannot satisfy a human soul; only following the Lord Jesus and obeying His Word can provide deep, lasting satisfaction.  As soon as fashions change, the followers of the cruel goddess find themselves dissatisfied and discontented once again, and have to labor to make themselves acceptable to their demanding mistress and their peers.

 

Jesus said, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed” (John 6:27).  Fashions perish.  The work of those who follow fashion will quickly perish and come to nothing.  The money they have spent, the effort they have invested is all worthless once the fashions change.  Jesus told us not to spend our labor on meat which perishes, but rather to labor for that which is eternal.  When our focus is on eternity, we can ignore those things – such as fashion – which are transitory, time-bound, and ready to perish.  We can focus on working for those things which are eternal – the kingdom of God, the salvation of souls, ministering to those in need, etc.

 

God asked through the prophet Isaiah, “Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread?  and your labour for that which satisfieth not?  hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness” (Isaiah 55:2).  Again, fashion cannot bring lasting satisfaction because it passes away.  So many people spend their money and labor for something so vain which will pass away so quickly.  Why would they continue to do something so foolish, when God offers lasting and true satisfaction?

 

The Apostle Paul wrote, “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any” (I Corinthians 6:12).  Sometimes, people will admit that they are slaves to fashion.  While some people can be addicted to tobacco, alcohol, or drugs, others are addicted to following fashion.  The Apostle Paul refused to do anything which would bring him under bondage – even if they were not necessarily sin – so as to not be hindered from fully following the Lord.  Why remain in bondage when the Lord offers freedom?

 

Our world and its fashion designers are eagerly pursuing the broad way to hell, and need to hear that the Lord Jesus offers freedom, pardon, and deliverance.  Meanwhile, even in some “plain” (Anabaptist) churches, there seems to be a definite flow of fashion.  First someone makes or buys a dress (or shirt, or shoes, etc.) which is different, then all the rest want the same, then they all (who are interested in following the fashion, anyway) have it, then the first one has something else…and the cycle repeats itself.  “Wherefore do ye spend…your labour for that which satisfieth not?”

 

If you are held in the clutches of the goddess of fashion, I encourage – I exhort – I plead – I beg with you to fly to the Lord Jesus and seek His pardon and His deliverance from your cruel mistress.  “Him that cometh to me,” Jesus promised, “I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37b).

 

Originally published in The Witness (October 2013).

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In:Nonresistance & Nonparticipation, Separation & Nonconformity, Youth

Comments Off on How Should Nonresistant People Prepare for a Draft?

By Andrew V. Ste. Marie

 

The Selective Service System (SSS) is the government agency in charge of the draft in the United States.  Currently, men ages 18-25 are required by law to register with the SSS for the draft.  This is not the same thing as signing up for military service, but is only signing up for the draft.  Men are required to register within 30 days of their 18th birthday.  There is no way to sign up as a conscientious objector (CO), as the government does not care who is or is not a CO if there is no draft.  The CO process begins only after 1) a draft has been begun and 2) you have been drafted.  It is a felony to fail to register, and you may be imprisoned for five years, fined up to $250,000, or both.

 

SSS sign-up forms should be available at your local post office.  You can sign up online, but doing it over the mail is recommended for COs, in order to retain additional proof of your CO convictions.

 

The SSS form has blocks for birthdate, gender, social security number, name, address, date, and signature.  In between these blocks, find a white space and write in all capital letters: I AM A CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR TO WAR IN ANY FORM.  Make a photocopy of this form and mail the photocopy to yourself.  When you receive it, do not open it – store it away in a file with the rest of your CO information.  Send the original to the SSS.

 

A few weeks after sending in your registration, you will receive a confirmation from the SSS that they received your completed form, and they will give you your Selective Service Number.  Keep this information.  You will need it if a draft is ever begun.

 

Next, you must take care to document your beliefs NOW while there is no draft in progress.  The draft system works quickly enough that if you wait until one has started, it may be too late to build a CO file!  Here are the steps to take:

 

Contact Christian Aid Ministries[1] and ask for a copy of their Draft Information Manual, which they will be happy to send you for free.  It has much detailed information about the current draft laws. Settle in your own heart before God what you believe about war, peace, and nonresistance, as well as knowing in yourself what you may conscientiously do in harmony with the Scriptures.  For instance, is noncombatant service acceptable, or a compromise? Be prepared to die for your beliefs, if necessary. Write a brief statement explaining why you stand opposed to “war in any form.”  This is not a doctrinal treatise, but a brief statement of your beliefs and what you can or cannot do because of them.  (Mine ran about five handwritten pages.)  Make a photocopy of this and mail it to yourself, then store the photocopy, unopened, in your CO file.  This is to provide dated proof of your convictions.  (The importance of not opening such documents is because they will be undisturbed with the postmark on the outside – proof positive of the age of the enclosed document.) For additional dated proof, send such a statement to The Witness.  We will be glad to help you out by publishing it.  We will send you a copy of the issue in which your letter appears for you to put in your file, unopened. Find several people you know who can write a “Letter of Support” for you.  This letter is not a letter of support for your position, but a statement that the person writing knows you and supports your claim that your CO status is due to a sincerely held belief (rather than expediency).  Church leaders, friends, acquaintances, employers, co-workers – try to find a wide sampling of people who know you well enough to support your claim to sincerity.  Finding one or two people who are not nonresistant, but believe you are sincere in your nonresistance, is a good thing. Be sure to give your letter-writers a photocopy of page 45 from the Draft Information Manual, which explains what the letter should include. Ask your letter-writers to mail you two copies of their letter – one to put in your file, unopened, and one to open and read.  It is important to pre-screen the letters before using them in a CO case because a poorly written letter could hurt your case rather than helping it. Walk close to the Lord and stay surrendered to His will and continued work in your life – whether or not a draft should ever come to test your convictions.

 

Young women, do not think that this will never apply to you.  The Selective Service law currently states that “male persons” must register and may be drafted, but the constitutionality of excluding women from the draft has been tested in the courts.  In 1981, Supreme Court decision Rostker vs. Goldberg decided that requiring only men to register was not a violation of the Constitution’s due process clause.  However, in 1994, the Department of Defense (DoD) revisited the issue and noted that in prior wars, the draft was primarily used to supply the Army with ground combat troops.  At the time, there was a policy of excluding women from such positions, thus, excluding them from the draft was still reasonable, in the DoD’s view.

 

However, very recent legislation has opened front-line combat positions to women.  Thus, since the DoD’s reason for excluding women from the draft is gone, it will probably not be long before women ages 18-25 will be required to sign up for the draft, just like men.  It is probably advisable for young women in that age range to prepare now for this possibility, going through all of the steps noted above EXCEPT for preparing and sending in an SSS registration form.

 

[1] Christian Aid Ministries, P.O. Box 360, Berlin, OH 44610.  (330) 893–2428.  www.christianaidministries.org

 

Originally published in The Witness (August 2013).

Jun 18

A Godly Woman

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In:Miscellaneous, Modesty, Separation & Nonconformity, Youth

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Written by an anonymous godly woman

 

Based on the following scriptures: Proverbs 31, Deuteronomy 6:5-7 & 11:19, Titus 2, I Timothy 2, I Peter 3:1-7, I Corinthians 11 & 14:29-40

 

The Bible speaks to everyone who follows in the Way, But some parts are specific in the things they have to say. The fathers are encouraged, and those alone in life, And there are admonitions for the mother and the wife.

 

 I always linger over these; they speak to my estate. They offer me direction in the small things and the great. To be a godly woman is the goal I want to reach, And so I need to study what the Scriptures have to teach.

 

A woman who is called to be a mother and a wife, Who takes the cross and purposes to live a godly life, Is ever growing in the faith she’s chosen to profess, And there are certain qualities she covets to possess.

 

The godly woman stays at home; her duties keep her there. She rises while it yet is night and gives herself to prayer. Her days are full of service and her heart is full of love; Her mind is full of gratitude and praise for God above.

 

Though not employed outside the home, she has no mind to shirk. She eats not bread of idleness, but fruit of honest work. Her brother and her sister, her parents and her neighbor, Her husband and her children share the blessing of her labor.

 

 The love her husband feels for her is easy to reflect, And she not only loves him, but she gives him her respect. In her his heart may safely trust; she does him only good; When he confides his inner thoughts, he finds them understood.

 

She’s mindful, too, of Eden, where the woman was deceived. She knows it’s not her place to teach (as others have believed) Nor to usurp authority, but listens with subjection, In meekness and humility, accepting his direction.

 

When all the church assembles in a solemn, formal way, The godly woman listens what the brethren have to say; And if she hears a statement made that makes her sit up straighter, The question forming in her mind is asked her husband later.

 

There is a congregation where her voice is often heard, And her children are attentive as she teaches them the Word, When she sits within her house, and when she walks along the way; When she lays them down at night, and when she rises with the day.

 

The godly woman is discreet, not seeking others’ praise; She’s modest in appearance, and she’s modest in her ways. She isn’t prone to gossip, but her neighbors know she cares, And any help her hands can give is certain to be theirs.

 

The godly woman doesn’t follow fashion’s idle whim, Nor deck herself in gold or gems to draw the eyes of men. And yet, compared to those who do, she is exceeding fair; Her meek and quiet spirit is an ornament more rare.

 

 The godly woman isn’t gay; she’s left that all behind. She’s pleasant and she’s cheerful, but she has a sober mind. Her covered head, her simple dress, her modest mein are one; Her singular adornment is the good that she has done.

 

When years of faithful laboring have bent her body low, She’ll teach the younger women in the way that they should go. Her works are their example in the service of the Lord; And verily, I say to you, she’ll have a rich reward.

 

Oh, make of me that woman, Lord! And guide me in that way. Behold, Thou art the potter, and I the softened clay. Encourage me where I am right; rebuke me where I’m wrong. I read these Scriptures often and I ponder on them long.

 

Originally published in The Heartbeat of the Remnant (May/June 2013), 400 W. Main Street Ste. 1, Ephrata, PA 17522.

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In:Anabaptists, James, Matthew, Separation & Nonconformity, Sin, The Kingdom of God

Comments Off on How Does God View the Swearing of Oaths?

By Andrew V. Ste. Marie

  “But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath” (James 5:12)

 

“I am content.”

 

A twenty-four year old young man stood before the city council of colonial New York City and said these words.  What was he content with?  He was content to be put back in jail.  For what cause?  For refusing to disobey the words of Jesus.

 

Early in 1745, young David Zeisberger had set off with Christian Frederick Post to learn the language of the Mohawk Indians.  The two young Moravian missionaries were arrested and charged with refusing to swear an oath of loyalty to the King of England.  The colony of New York had a new law which stated that “Every Vagrant Preacher, Moravian, Disguised Papist [Roman Catholic], or any other person presuming to reside among and teach the Indians” who had no license and had not taken the oath “shall be treated as a person taking upon him to seduce the Indians from his Majesty’s interest.”  The council read the new law to David, and asked him if he would take the oath.  He replied, “I hope the honorable Council will not force me to do it.”  They said, “We will not constrain you; you may let it alone if it is against your conscience; but you will have to go to prison again.”

 

“I am content,” David told them.  So back into jail he went, with his companion, for a total of fifty-one days.  “We count it an honor to suffer for the Saviour’s sake,” David wrote.

 

These two Moravians sat in a New York prison for standing against the swearing of oaths.  For others, refusal to swear has led to death.  How does God view the swearing of oaths?  Is swearing really that bad – or might it be, as some suggest, an act of worship which is highly pleasing to God?

 

What does Jesus say?

 

What is an Oath?

 

Before discussing whether oaths are right, we must first understand what oaths are.  Those who defend the swearing of oaths define an oath as “calling God to witness to the truth of a statement.”  (We will see why they define it this way later.)  However, Jesus had a different definition of oaths.

 

“Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!  Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?  And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty.  Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?  Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon.  And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein.  And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon” (Matthew 23:16-22).

 

In this passage, Jesus is rebuking the Pharisees for making rules concerning which oaths could be broken without guilt and which ones had to be kept inviolable.  Notice what the Pharisees were swearing by: the temple, the gold of the temple, the altar, and the gift on the altar.  Obviously, these were oaths, and Jesus treated them as such.  However, none of them were “calling God to witness”!  We see then that this cannot be the true definition of an oath.  There are two parts to an oath: 1) the oath itself (“I swear”) and 2) the confirmation: what is being sworn by.  People swear by many things, for instance, “I swear to God” or “I swear by my mother’s grave.”  Some even swear without a confirmation, just saying “I swear that…”  There are the judicial oaths in courts, service oaths for public office or military service, and the Hippocratic oath for medical professionals.  These are all oaths.  The writer of the book of Hebrews affirms that oaths are sworn by something greater than the swearer and are used for confirmation of something asserted: “For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife” (Hebrews 6:16).  We see in this verse that the purpose of oaths is for confirmation of a statement based on the authority or weight of something greater than the swearer.

 

First Oath in the Bible

 

The first recorded oath in the Bible was given by a Godly man, Abraham.  In Genesis 21:22-24, 27, & 31, we read:

 

“And it came to pass at that time, that Abimelech and Phichol the chief captain of his host spake unto Abraham, saying, God is with thee in all that thou doest: Now therefore swear unto me here by God that thou wilt not deal falsely with me, nor with my son, nor with my son’s son: but according to the kindness that I have done unto thee, thou shalt do unto me, and to the land wherein thou hast sojourned.  And Abraham said, I will swear…And Abraham took sheep and oxen, and gave them unto Abimelech; and both of them made a covenant…Wherefore he called that place Beersheba; because there they sware both of them.”

 

The Law of Moses

 

Amid the flames, clouds, smoke, and trumpetings on Mount Sinai, God gave a covenant to Moses to give to the people of Israel.  This law would be the standard of righteousness until the Messiah came to replace it.  The Mosaic Law has plenty to say about oaths, and it is essential to understand exactly what the Law allowed and did not allow when we are discussing the subject of oaths.

 

Under the Law of Moses, oaths were permitted, and the children of Israel made extensive use of them in Old Testament times.  In fact, under certain circumstances, the Law actually commanded the use of oaths.  In Exodus 22:10-12, we read:

 

“If a man deliver unto his neighbour an ass, or an ox, or a sheep, or any beast, to keep; and it die, or be hurt, or driven away, no man seeing it: Then shall an oath of the LORD be between them both, that he hath not put his hand unto his neighbour’s goods; and the owner of it shall accept thereof, and he shall not make it good.  And if it be stolen from him, he shall make restitution unto the owner thereof.”

 

In this passage, we learn that if the animal was lost to the owner in some way, the man who was keeping it was to swear an oath that he was not guilty of stealing or destroying his neighbor’s animal.  This oath released him from being required to replace the animal for his neighbor.  The neighbor was required to accept the oath as confirmation that his neighbor was innocent.

 

In the book of Deuteronomy, God includes swearing by His Name as part of the service which He desired from the Israelites and mentions it in the context of a rejection of idolatry.

 

“Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name.  Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you;  (For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 6:13-15).

 

“Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name.  He is thy praise, and he is thy God, that hath done for thee these great and terrible things, which thine eyes have seen” (Deuteronomy 10:20-21).

 

Oaths were also required in the service of the priests.  Numbers 5 records what was to be done with a woman who was suspected by her husband of unfaithfulness.  She was to be brought to the priest, who was to perform a ceremony to allow the Lord to reveal whether she was guilty or innocent.  Part of this ceremony involved an oath:

 

“And the priest shall charge her by an oath, and say unto the woman, If no man have lain with thee, and if thou hast not gone aside to uncleanness with another instead of thy husband, be thou free from this bitter water that causeth the curse: But if thou hast gone aside to another instead of thy husband, and if thou be defiled, and some man have lain with thee beside thine husband: Then the priest shall charge the woman with an oath of cursing, and the priest shall say unto the woman, The LORD make thee a curse and an oath among thy people, when the LORD doth make thy thigh to rot, and thy belly to swell; And this water that causeth the curse shall go into thy bowels, to make thy belly to swell, and thy thigh to rot: And the woman shall say, Amen, amen” (Numbers 5:19-22).

 

Not only were oaths permitted and commanded in the Mosaic Law, God Himself made use of oaths on more than one occasion.  For instance, in Jeremiah 22:5, God declares: “But if ye will not hear these words, I swear by myself, saith the LORD, that this house shall become a desolation.”  In Exodus 17, after a battle between the Israelites and the Amalekites, Moses built an altar and called it Jehovah—nissi, “Because the LORD hath sworn that the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation” (Exodus 17:16).  (See also Deuteronomy 7:8; Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 6:13, 16; Isaiah 45:23).

 

So we see that not only were oaths permitted under the Law of Moses, they were actually required in some circumstances, and God Himself swore.  Nevertheless, there were restrictions which were applied even under the Mosaic Law which are important to understand.

 

Restrictions on Swearing

 

The Law of Moses strictly forbade false oaths – swearing to something which was not true, or swearing that a person would do something and then not doing it.

 

If a man swore to do something and was unable to perform it, the Law considered it sin and required that he bring a trespass offering to the priest.

 

“Or if a soul swear, pronouncing with his lips to do evil, or to do good, whatsoever it be that a man shall pronounce with an oath, and it be hid from him; when he knoweth of it, then he shall be guilty in one of these.  And it shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing: And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD for his sin which he hath sinned, a female from the flock, a lamb or a kid of the goats, for a sin offering; and the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning his sin” (Leviticus 5:4-6).

 

Numbers 30:1-2 also commands that oaths were to be kept:

 

“And Moses spake unto the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel, saying, This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded.  If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.”

 

Swearing falsely was also forbidden.  Leviticus 6:2a, 3-5 says:

 

“If a soul sin, and commit a trespass against the LORD…Or have found that which was lost, and lieth concerning it, and sweareth falsely; in any of all these that a man doeth, sinning therein: Then it shall be, because he hath sinned, and is guilty, that he shall restore that which he took violently away, or the thing which he hath deceitfully gotten, or that which was delivered him to keep, or the lost thing which he found, Or all that about which he hath sworn falsely; he shall even restore it in the principal, and shall add the fifth part more thereto, and give it unto him to whom it appertaineth, in the day of his trespass offering.”

 

God further declared in Leviticus 19:12:

 

“And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.”

 

The prophets, who called the people to return to the Lord and repent of their transgressions, also spoke against false oaths.  Zechariah includes false oaths in a list of things which God declares that He hates.

 

“These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates: And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the LORD” (Zechariah 8:16-17).

 

In the book of Malachi, those who swear falsely are put in the same list with sorcerers and adulterers:

 

“And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 3:5).

 

Another restriction was given by Joshua near the end of his life.  He warned against swearing by the names of false gods.

 

“Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left; That ye come not among these nations, these that remain among you; neither make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, neither serve them, nor bow yourselves unto them: But cleave unto the LORD your God, as ye have done unto this day” (Joshua 23:6-8).

 

Oaths were not a light thing among the ancient Israelites.  They took oaths very seriously.  An example of this is found in I Samuel 14.  King Saul, in the middle of a battle with the Philistines, swore an oath: “Cursed be the man that eateth any food until evening, that I may be avenged on mine enemies” (I Samuel 14:24).  All the people, who “feared the oath” (verse 26), refrained from eating anything, even when passing by a piece of honeycomb dropped from the hive – except Jonathan, who had not heard of his father’s oath.  He nearly lost his life for eating when his father had rashly cursed anyone who ate that day.

 

Oaths were taken so seriously that any oath or vow which a woman made was subject to the approval of her husband or father, who could nullify her oath or vow if he so chose (Numbers 30:3-16).

 

So we see that with some important exceptions, oaths were permitted and even required under the Old Covenant.  But the day came when the reign of the Law of Moses ended.

 

A New Kingdom

 

“Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” cried John the Baptist (Matthew 3:2).  People from all over Judaea flocked to hear this man, dressed in camel’s hair, preach about the coming of the new Kingdom.  Then one day, John greeted the King Himself with these words: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29b).  “The law and the prophets were until John,” Jesus later said; “since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it” (Luke 16:16).  The reign of Moses’ Law had ended, and the King was here to establish the laws by which His Kingdom would operate.  Among the laws which He set up was a radically different standard on the swearing of oaths.

 

Jesus’ Words on Oaths

 

Jesus addressed the subject of oaths in the most influential sermon of all time, the Sermon on the Mount.  In Matthew 5:33-37, we read:

 

“Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.  Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.  But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.”

 

Jesus made clear the radical new standard which He was requiring of those in His Kingdom – no oaths at all, for any purpose, in any way.  “Swear not at all,” He said.  There is nothing unclear about this instruction.

 

James’ Words on Swearing

 

Jesus was not the only one to instruct the citizens of the Kingdom of God to abstain from swearing.  The Apostle James wrote:

 

“But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation” (James 5:12).

 

In this verse, we again find the answer to the question “does God want His children to swear oaths?”  James tells us “swear not,” and then instructs us to avoid swearing by heaven, earth, or “by any other oath.”  “Any other” would include swearing by God Himself.

 

This verse also gives us the answer to the question “is the subject of swearing really all that important?”  The Book of James discusses many topics – responding to the trials of life, partiality, the relationship of faith and works, controlling our tongues, strife, separation from the world, wealth, etc.  These are undoubtedly important issues.  Nevertheless, when he arrives at the topic of swearing, he begins with “But above all things, my brethren” – in other words, this one topic is more important than anything else discussed in the entire book!

 

What Were They Forbidding?

 

In spite of the clear instructions given by Jesus and James, there are some today – and there have been some for centuries – who insist that the swearing of oaths is permissible, or perhaps even highly pleasing to God.  They insist that what Jesus and James were actually forbidding was only false and frivolous oaths – not any oath.  There are some serious problems with this view.  First, if they meant to forbid only false and frivolous oaths, why did they not say that they were forbidding false and frivolous oaths?  Secondly, why did they use such absolute language – “Swear not at all,” “swear not…by any other oath”?  Thirdly, Jesus was clearly following the pattern of the other sections in the Sermon on the Mount where He raised the standards of the Law of Moses (“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time…But I say unto you”).  The Law of Moses forbade false oaths, as we have seen; if Jesus only forbade false oaths, He would not have raised the standard at all.

 

Did Paul Swear?

 

Those who defend the swearing of oaths point to the epistles of Paul, claiming that he swore several times in his writings.  The verses quoted here are used to support this claim:

 

“For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers” (Romans 1:9). “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost” (Romans 9:1). “But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay” (II Corinthians 1:18). “Moreover I call God for a record upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth” (II Corinthians 1:23). “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not” (II Corinthians 11:31). “Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not” (Galatians 1:20). “For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:8). “For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness” (I Thessalonians 2:5). “Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity” (I Timothy 2:7).

 

What is it in these verses which lead some to believe that the Apostle Paul swore oaths?  Do you remember that those who defend the swearing of oaths define an oath as “calling on God for confirmation”?  In all of these verses, Paul calls on God to confirm what he is saying.  Those who defend oaths, then, take these as oaths and as confirmation that it is perfectly acceptable to God to swear oaths.  But God is not the author of confusion.

 

As we pointed out before, their definition of the word oath is faulty, and thus their conclusion regarding these verses is also faulty.  Although Paul did call on God to confirm his words, he did not use oaths (saying “I swear”).

 

Whenever a teaching of Jesus seems to be contradicted by Paul, we must find a way to harmonize the two which leaves Jesus’ words supreme – not the other way around.  Jesus is the King, and the servant is not greater than his master (John 13:16, 15:20) – even if that servant is the great Apostle Paul.  (Of course, Paul’s writings never do contradict Jesus’ words.)

 

The Early Church on the Swearing of Oaths

 

We have seen that whereas the Old Covenant allowed and even required some oaths, they are strictly forbidden under the New Covenant of Jesus Christ.  The early Christians of the first two generations after the apostles held to this view.

 

Justin Martyr, about the year 160 A.D., wrote, “And with regard to our not swearing at all, and always speaking the truth, He commanded as follows: ‘Swear not at all.’”[1]  Irenaeus (student of Polycarp, who was a student of John the Apostle) wrote: “He commanded them not only not to swear falsely, but not even to swear at all.”[2]  Tertullian wrote, “Of perjury I am silent, since even swearing is not lawful.”[3]

 

The Early Anabaptists

 

The early Anabaptists (Dutch Mennonites, Swiss Brethren, and Hutterites) took firm stands against the swearing of oaths.  Their writings on the subject are well worth reading, because they faced several of the same objections which we do today when we insist on obedience to Christ’s teachings on this subject.[4]

 

The Schleitheim Confession (written 1527), the earliest Anabaptist confession of faith, was written by the Swiss Brethren and took a strong stand against oaths:

 

“We are agreed as follows concerning the oath: The oath is a confirmation among those who are quarreling or making promises.  In the Law it is commanded to be performed in God’s Name, but only in truth, not falsely.  Christ, who teaches the perfection of the Law, prohibits all swearing to His [followers], whether true or false,—neither by heaven, nor by the earth, nor by Jerusalem, nor by our head,—and that for the reason which He shortly thereafter gives, For you are not able to make one hair white or black.  So you see it is for this reason that all swearing is forbidden: we cannot fulfill that which we promise when we swear, for we cannot change [even] the very least thing on us.

“Now there are some who do not give credence to the simple command of God, but object with this question: Well now, did not God swear to Abraham by Himself (since He was God) when He promised him that He would be with him and that He would be his God if he would keep His commandments,—why then should I not also swear when I promise to someone?  Answer: Hear what the Scripture says: God, since He wished more abundantly to show unto the heirs the immutability of His counsel, inserted an oath, that by two immutable things (in which it is impossible for God to lie) we might have a strong consolation.  Observe the meaning of this Scripture: What God forbids you to do, He has power to do, for everything is possible for Him.  God swore an oath to Abraham, says the Scripture, so that He might show that His counsel is immutable.  That is, no one can withstand nor thwart His will; therefore He can keep His oath.  But we can do nothing, as is said above by Christ, to keep or perform [our oaths]: therefore we shall not swear at all.

“Then others further say as follows: It is not forbidden of God to swear in the New Testament, when it is actually commanded in the Old, but it is forbidden only to swear by heaven, earth, Jerusalem and our head.  Answer: Hear the Scripture, He who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by Him who sitteth thereon.  Observe: it is forbidden to swear by heaven, which is only the throne of God: how much more is it forbidden [to swear] by God Himself!  Ye fools and blind, which is greater, the throne or Him that sitteth thereon?”[5]

 

Menno Simons, in a book which he wrote against Reformed theologian Martin Micron, wrote:

 

“That these things are so your unscriptural glosses [comments, explanations] concerning the oath make plain.  Christ says, Ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths; but I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne: nor by the earth; for it is his footstool.  Matt. 5:33-35.  And you, Micron, say that nothing but light-minded, false oaths are hereby prohibited, as if Moses allowed Israel to swear light-mindedly and falsely, and that Christ under the New Testament merely forbade these, notwithstanding that all intelligent readers know that it was not merely allowed Israel to swear truly but it was also commanded them to do so.  Lev. 19:12; Deut. 10:20.

“If the Israelites then, as you hold, had the liberty in this matter that we have, and if it be such a glorious thing and an honor to God rightly to swear by the name of God, as you make bold to lie against your God, then tell me (Dear me) why Wisdom did not say, You have heard that it hath been said to them of old, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, and I say the same thing.  Instead Christ says, Moses commanded not to forswear thyself, but I say unto you, Thou shalt not swear at all.”[6]

 

In another book, Menno wrote:

 

“Nearly everything which is transacted before the magistracy must be affirmed by an oath, although the Lord has so plainly forbidden the swearing of oaths to all Christians.  Matt. 5:34…We confess and heartily believe that no emperor or king may rule as superior, nor command contrary to His Word, since He is the Head of all princes, and is the King of all kings, and unto Him every knee shall bow which is in heaven, in earth, or under the earth.  He has plainly forbidden us to swear, and pointed us to yea and nay alone.  Therefore it is that through fear of God we do not swear, nor dare to swear, though we must hear and suffer much on that account from the world…it should be observed that Christ Jesus does not in the New Testament point His disciples to the Law in regard to the matter of swearing—the dispensation of imperfectness which allowed swearing, but He points us now from the Law to yea and nay, as to the dispensation of perfectness, saying, Ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time (that is, to the fathers under the law by Moses), Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths (that is, thou shalt swear truly and fulfill thine oath): but I (Christ) say unto you my disciples, Swear not at all (that is, neither truly nor falsely), neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne, nor by the earth, for it is his footstool, neither by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.  Neither shalt thou swear by thy head because thou canst not make one hair white or black.  But let your communication be yea, yea; nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.  Here you have Christ’s own doctrine and ordinance concerning swearing.”[7]

 

Peter Reidemann, an important early Hutterite leader, wrote:

 

“Therefore Christ, in order to drive away the shadows that the light of truth—which light he is himself—may shine upon us, cometh and saith, ‘Ye have heard that it hath been said to them of old: Thou shalt swear no false oath but shalt perform thine oath unto God.  But I say unto you that ye swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: nor by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.  Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.  But let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil’—that is the devil.

“Now, if one should say, as they all interpret it, false and superficial swearing is forbidden, but when one sweareth out of love, necessity and the profit of one’s neighbour, it is well done and not wrong—this happeneth when human reason goeth before the knowledge of God, and where human cleverness desireth to rule over the Spirit of God, and not allow itself to be controlled by the same.  For just so did Eve look at the forbidden fruit, and chose the same at the counsel of the serpent, which she followed more than the counsel of God, therefore was she deceived by its cunning and led into death.  So it is still: whosoever will please men cannot be Christ’s servant.  For truly here one cannot let reason rule or twist the scriptures in accordance with human presumption or opinion, for that is futile, but one must give God the honour and leave his command unaltered…Therefore saith James, ‘Above all things, dear brothers, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into hypocrisy.’  Here James will have no oath at all, whether small or great, to avoid hypocrisy.  Therefore, let men twist it as they will and dress it up and adorn it as they may, no good will be found in human swearing, for Christ himself saith, ‘Let your speech be,  Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.’  The evil one, however, is the devil, that teareth good from the heart of men and planteth evil.

“Therefore the devout will walk in the truth, allow it to rule and guide them and hold to the same; whatsoever it stirreth, speaketh and doeth within them, believe and observe the same; and this for the sake of the truth which is God himself, which dwelleth in them.  Therefore they neither need nor desire any oath.”[8]

 

The Dortrecht Confession (also known as the 18 Articles of Faith), written by the Dutch Mennonites in 1632, states in Article 15:

 

“Regarding the swearing of oaths, we believe and confess, that the Lord Jesus has dissuaded his followers from and forbidden them the same; that is, that he commanded them to ‘swear not at all,’ but that their ‘Yea’ should be ‘yea’ and their ‘Nay nay.’  From which we understand that all oaths, high and low, are forbidden; and that instead of them we are to confirm all our promises and covenants, declarations and testimonies of all matters, merely with ‘Yea that is yea,’ and ‘Nay that is nay;’ and that we are to perform and fulfill at all times, and in all things, to every one, every promise and obligation to which we thus affirm, as faithfully as if we had confirmed it with the most solemn oath.  And if we thus do, we have confidence that no one—not even the government itself—will have just cause to require more of us.  Matt. 5:34-37; James 5:12; II Cor. 1:17.”[9]

 

Application for Today

 

To take a stand against swearing oaths is, at first glance, not nearly as costly a decision today as it was for the early Anabaptists.  They decided to stand with Christ on this issue at risk of life and limb.  Today, if we want to take a stand against oath-swearing, we simply ask to affirm instead of swear if necessary, and no one seems to care.  Nevertheless, Jesus’ teachings about oaths ought to affect our lives profoundly.

 

Jesus wants our yes to be yes and our no to be no.  James says the same thing.  Our speech ought to be so reliable that we do not need oaths to confirm what we say.  We should be known as honest people because Jesus has transformed our lives.  We do not need oaths anymore because everyone knows that whatever we say will be true and reliable.

 

We also must be careful in our everyday speech to avoid oaths.  Interjecting “I swear” into a conversation is an oath, a violation of the command of Jesus Christ.  Such expressions as “by George,” “by Jove,” or even “by golly” are abbreviated oaths – the confirmation without the swearing.  If we use these expressions, perceptive people will not take us seriously when we say we do not believe in swearing oaths.  Furthermore, they are, in and of themselves, violations of Jesus’ commandments and therefore sin.

 

Lying and exaggeration must be completely eradicated from our speech.  Otherwise, we open ourselves up to the criticism that we refuse to swear because we know we are not telling the truth.  May such things never be heard.  Rather, may all know that we refuse to swear oaths because we have accepted the Kingdom of God, with its high standard of honesty, and are following the commands and teachings of Christ and the Apostles which forbid oaths – and everything we say is scrupulously honest and, as God grants power, within the standards of righteousness which He has set for His Kingdom.

 

May we earnestly pray to God that He would tame our tongues.  “But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8).  God can tame it for us, and a tamed tongue must be one of the most remarkable proofs of a regenerated life.  “For in many things we offend all.  If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body” (James 3:2).

[1] Ante-Nicene Fathers, volume 1, p. 168

[2] Ibid., volume 1, p. 408

[3] Ibid., volume 3, p. 67.  A few early Christians allowed swearing under some circumstances, but discouraged it.

[4] There were over ten different groups of early Anabaptists – some of them quite strange.  Some of these groups allowed the swearing of oaths.  For the purposes of this article, when we talk about the early Anabaptists, we are referring to the Dutch Mennonites, the Swiss Brethren, and the Hutterites.

[5] J. C. Wenger, translator, “The Schleitheim Confession of Faith,” Mennonite Quarterly Review October 1945, pp. 251-252

[6] Menno Simons, “Epistle to Martin Micron,” 1554, in J. C. Wenger, editor, The Complete Writings of Menno Simons, Herald Press, pp. 922-923

[7] Menno Simons, “Confession of the Distressed Christians,” 1552, in J. C. Wenger, editor, The Complete Writings of Menno Simons, Herald Press, pp. 518-519

[8] Peter Reidemann, Confession of Faith, Plough Publishing, pp. 197-198, 204-205

[9] Dortrecht Confession of Faith, in A Devoted Christian’s Prayer Book, 1967,  Pathway Publishers, pp. 107-108

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In:Modesty, Separation & Nonconformity, Youth

Comments Off on Adorned with the Beauty of Holiness

By Leora Schmucker

 

Greetings of love in Jesus’ name! We have a great God who is worthy of all our praise, is worthy of all our love, and is worthy of our whole life!

 

We live in a time when there are many distractions. The prince of this world is truly out to destroy lives at whatever cost. We have amusement parks, video arcades, theaters, Internet, Facebook, fashion malls, and whatever else you can think of … it’s there. But God would have our hearts stirred to not be entangled with these distractions, but to work for Him and His kingdom. If we are entangled with the affairs of this life, we will have no time left for our Lord. We cannot serve two masters. There seems to be some things trying to steal the time of our dear sisters and brothers (young and old alike). Let us beware of these things, that we can be free from them and in that freedom serve the Lord with our whole hearts.

 

One thing that we should be aware of is called adornment, and the other is foolishness or looseness. To me it is so amazing how God works. He tells us in His Word what not to adorn ourselves with, but He also tells us what to adorn ourselves with. He tells us what fruit should be coming from our lives, and what fruit shouldn’t be coming from our lives. For every evil way that presents itself, God also shows us the right way. I know many of us would not go to fashion malls to buy our clothes, but I fear that many of us are still looking for clothes that accent the body rather than glorify our Lord. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Mt. 5:8

 

Analyzing the Scriptures

 

1 Peter 3:3-6

 

Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands. Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

 

Adorn—to deck or beautify; set off; to embellish by anything external or adventitious; to display the beauty or excellence of

 

Remember, God wants us to adorn ourselves with things that will bring glory to Him; for example if I put some type of clothing on and when people see me and all they notice is my clothing and how great it looks, I’m getting all the glory. But if somebody sees me and they can see the clear countenance on my face and that I’ve been with Jesus, then they will give God all the glory that He deserves and we will be displaying the beauty or excellence of God’s Spirit in our lives.

 

Plaiting—folding, doubling, braiding

 

Apparel—clothing; external habiliments or decorations

 

Ornament—that which embellishes; or something which, added to another thing, renders it more beautiful to the eye

 

How beautiful is it to our Lord when we are born again and obtain a broken spirit and become meek and quiet! Can people see the fruit of God’s Spirit in our lives (as ornaments)? Truly that is an ornament of great price! Remember, we can add ornaments to our lives that bring sadness to our Father. Let us not make Him ashamed to call us His sons and daughters.

 

Meek—mild of temper; soft; gentle; not easily provoked or irritated; yielding, given to forbearance under injuries

 

Are we irritated if somebody has something to share with us that will help us in our walk with the Lord? Remember, our Lord wants the fruit of meekness adorning our new lives.

 

Quiet—still; being in a state of rest; not moving; peaceable; not turbulent; not giving offense; not exciting controversy, disorder, or trouble; mild; meek; contented

 

With every new style that comes in, are we quick to change for no spiritual reasons, but simply adding something to our life that only brings glory to our fleshly bodies? Are we content with the standard of God for our lives? Are we firm and grounded in what we believe? Do we know why we believe what we believe?

 

Subjection—the act of subduing; the act of vanquishing and bringing under the dominion of another

 

Are we under the dominion of our Lord in every aspect of our lives?

 

Afraid—impressed with fear or apprehension

 

Amazement—astonishment; confusion or perplexity from a sudden impression of fear, surprise, or wonder

 

So we are daughters of Sara as long as we do well, and are not impressed with fear with any confusion or perplexity. God is not the author of confusion, because His way is perfect, converting the soul. Remember, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” not the beginning of confusion.

 

2 Timothy 2:4,16,22

 

(4) No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. (16) But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. (22) Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

 

Entangleth—to twist or interweave in such a manner as not to be easily separated; to perplex or distract, as with cares

 

Are we allowing our lives to be interwoven with the fashions and foolishness of this world?

 

Shun—to avoid; to keep clear of; not to fall on or come in contact with; not to mix or associate with.

 

Are we shunning the practices of this world? More specifically are we shunning loose and empty talk?

 

Profane—irreverent to anything sacred; polluted; not pure;

 

Vain—empty; worthless; having no substance, value or importance

 

Remember, what we fill ourselves with will come out. If we are filling ourselves with God’s holy Word, then that will be flowing out of our lives. But if we are filling ourselves with vain things, then that shall come out as well.

 

Babblings—foolish talk

 

Is our talk centered on the Bible? Or is it centered on the new clothes that we bought, or the new vehicle we bought, or all the people we meet on Facebook?

 

Flee—to run with rapidity, as from danger; to hasten from danger; or expected evil

 

If we are with a group of people whose talk is foolish, do we stay for fear of losing friends, or do we walk (or run) away from the expected or dangerous evil? Remember, the more we interweave our lives with the ways of the world, the harder it is to untangle ourselves.

 

Lusts—longing desire; eagerness to possess or enjoy; carnal appetite; unlawful desire of carnal pleasure

 

God will give us the true desires of our heart. We may say that we desire pure things, but if our heart is yearning for unlawful things, we shall yield to those things. Our lives consist not only in what we say, but more importantly what we live. Take courage; the inward desires of our heart can be forever changed through the spiritual operation called the “new birth.”

 

Righteousness—a state of living in that which God has declared as right. If we are to follow righteousness, then that means we should follow the teachings of Jesus, and strive to imitate what Christ showed us by His example.

 

Faith—the object of belief; a doctrine or system of doctrines believed.

 

What truly does our faith consist of? Do we really believe God and what He tells us through His written Word? Remember, it was because Abraham believed God that he was able to sacrifice his only son Isaac through whom Abraham’s descendants would be counted. So if God tells us in His Word to shun ungodliness because it will lead to more ungodliness, do we believe God and flee those things, or do we think that just a little bit of fun won’t hurt?

 

Charity—love; benevolence; goodwill; that disposition of the heart which inclines men to think favorably of their fellow men, and to do them good; it includes supreme love to God our Maker and universal good will to men

 

Do we have the love of God dwelling within, and flowing out of our lives like a spring of running water?

Peace—heavenly rest; harmony; freedom from disturbance or agitation

 

Again, we are to follow the example of our dear Savior Jesus Christ, whose whole life was in perfect harmony with God the Father. Christ was not disturbed or disrupted by the ways of this world, but He was at rest doing His Father’s will. Are we?

 

Pure—clear; free from moral defilement; without spot; holy; incorrupt;

 

So we are to follow or have these fruits adorned in our lives, and practicing these things with others who are striving to put them in their own lives. Remember, a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump!

 

1 Timothy 4:12-13

 

Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.

 

Attendance—service; ministry; attention; regard; careful application of mind

 

What does our life consist of when we compare our lives to the Word of our Lord?

 

Conversation—general course of manners; behavior; deportment.

 

What is our walk really showing about our lives?

 

Exhortation—advice; counsel; the act or practice of exhorting

 

Are we encouraging other believers in their walk with God, or are we too involved with the ways of this world?

 

Doctrine—instruction and confirmation in the truths of the gospel

 

Are we able to give a clear answer on the faith and hope that lies within us? If we do not continue to seek for answers in God’s holy Word, we will not find, and therefore we will not have, a ready answer.

 

1 Timothy 2:9-10

 

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

 

Shamefacedness—bashfulness; excess of modesty

 

So we should be adorned with shamefacedness and not giddiness or sensuality.

 

Sobriety—habitual soberness; seriousness; gravity without sadness or melancholy

 

Yes, even if we are sober we don’t have to be sad but we can have the joy of the Lord adorning our lives. There should be a light in our eyes because Jesus is the Light of our lives. Truly, if God’s Spirit is dwelling within us we have so much to be thankful for. And it should be evident in every aspect of our lives.

 

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. Titus 2:11-12

 

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10

 

The jewels of modesty, shamefacedness, sobriety, faith, charity, peace, righteousness, meekness, and quietness are truly jewels of great price. These jewels are worth surrendering our whole lives to God our Maker that we may have our lives adorned with them. But if we are surrendered to the prince of the air, we will have the ornaments of pride, envy, hate, jealousy, and so forth. Which one is the more beautiful?

 

Revelation 21:2-3

 

And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

 

Are we preparing to meet Jesus? Is God dwelling in us? Is He our God and are we His people?

 

Remember time is swiftly passing by. We can be here today and gone tomorrow. Do we want to be with Jesus in eternity, or do we want to be with the Devil and his angels? The choices we make for our lives today will affect where we spend eternity. God will not be mocked, for whatsoever a man soweth so shall he reap. Don’t be misled; that verse is also for the believer, not just for the unconverted. Each one of us can ask ourselves, “What are we sowing?”

 

Concerning adornment, are we sowing the thought that outward beauty is very important, or are we sowing the thought that inward beauty is the most precious thing to have and obtain? And just for clarification, I am not talking about being dirty and unkempt. God is a God of order and cleanliness, but he is not a God of ribbons, bows, frills, laces, expensive and attractive clothing. Remember, the people that design most clothing, design the clothing that it will be appealing and attractive to the eye so that people will buy it.

 

Again, when people look at us, do they glorify our fleshly body, or are they praising God for the work that He is doing in our lives? It is so important that we understand that it is our inward change of heart that should beautify us. Many people say that we can dress to beautify ourselves because of how God clothes the trees and flowers. But I believe that God designed plant life with many colors because that is the only way to beautify them. With us, He plants in us a beautiful spirit and does not want beautiful clothing to conflict with His work.

 

Concerning foolishness and looseness, if we are grounded in the Word of God we will not have time for vain babblings and pleasure-seeking idleness. Let us be busy doing the work of our Lord. For example, helping our neighbor who could use an extra hand, or sharing our testimonies with people that we meet. Let us not fear man who can only kill the body, but rather let us fear God who has power to cast body and soul into eternal torment.

 

As we live in these last times, the message is that “as long as you believe in a god, you’ll be okay.” That is a false message! Jesus tells us there is only one way. Again he says “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Praise the Lord that God gave us an example to follow!

 

Originally published in The Heartbeat of the Remnant (September/October 2012), 400 W. Main Street Ste. 1, Ephrata, PA 17522.

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In:Anabaptists, Nonresistance & Nonparticipation, Separation & Nonconformity, Sin, The Church, The Kingdom of God

Comments Off on Mennonite Nazis: A Lesson from History

By Dean Taylor

Suggested Resource: Pilgrims and Politics

 

Pulling into the local pretzel shop here in Lancaster County, the scene was pretty predictable. Buggies, horse ties, and old bicycles outside. Inside the old building, a plainly dressed, Old-Order Mennonite lady took my pretzel order. I paid and was about to head out to my car with my nice, warm bag of salted pretzels when I noticed two stacks of papers sitting on the counter. Looking closer I discovered, to my surprise, that these papers were actually voter registration forms and a “tract” explaining why voting for the conservative President was the only “Christian” choice.

 

Picking up the paper I asked the young lady, “So I didn’t know that conservative Anabaptists voted. When did this start?”

 

To this the Mennonite lady responded, “Well, it’s getting so bad that they are starting to.”

 

I answered back, “Historically it has never helped the church to get involved in politics.”

Election time

 

Yes, it’s election time again, and the headlines are full of statistics and touching stories, all proclaiming their different sides of the political arguments. Depending on which news source you read, it would be easy to believe that the other side is Satan himself. Conservative Evangelicals are putting up quite a stink over this election and unquestioningly preaching the idea that voting in this election is a moral obligation. The socialist agenda of the current administration is seen as a major threat to the conservative way of life, and therefore voting against the “Liberal-Socialist” agenda is seen as almost important as walking an aisle. The left is no better, and more than ever they have learned to use spiritual overtones and self-righteous-sounding arguments to justify their agendas.

 

But who would the Apostles vote for? In the early church, saying “Jesus is Lord” was actually a political statement. This phrase was in direct contradiction to the cry of Romans, “Caesar is Lord.” The closest equivalent to this sentiment in our day would be saying, “Jesus for president!” In the early church this was not mere sentimentality. After the death and resurrection of the Jesus, this motto became the early Christian battle cry.

What does that mean practically?

 

So what did saying “Jesus is Lord” mean practically? To the early Christians it meant a separation from the politics of Rome and a purposeful establishing of a new nation called “The Kingdom of God.” Throughout history, radical followers of Jesus have charted the same course.

 

What is the answer to the question “Who would the apostles vote for?” I believe that they would vote for Jesus. But to a statement like that some may be thinking, “That all sounds nice and spiritual, but isn’t it okay to simply recognize that Jesus is the “real King in your heart,” but to still go ahead and vote for others—just in case?” Others ask, “Isn’t it better to vote for the lesser evil?”

 

History has proven that for serious Christians with conviction, voting for the “lesser evil” is a bad idea. Whether we want to admit it or not, the facts of history cry out that when the church has thrown in their lot with the different “lesser evils” of their day, it has led to both the church and the state losing out.

 

Good causes

 

Throughout history when the politicians have vied for the attention of the church, their issues have appeared so justifiable—so important. The political activists have made it seem apathetic, un-American, and yes, even un-Christian not to get involved.

 

However, when the records of history are reviewed, it is amazing how the church’s entanglement with these seemingly “good causes” has littered the trail with casualties, often leading entire communities off course.

Mennonite Nazis

 

A painful example of good intentions turned really bad is the case of the Mennonite political involvement in Germany during WWII. In some respects I would rather forget this chapter of our Anabaptist history. However, I feel that if we are going to lift up the good things we have done, then we also need to be honest with our mistakes—and this was a big one! I believe that understanding these mistakes could help to keep us from making similar mistakes in the near future.

 

The Mennonite church in Holland, northern Germany, and Prussia[1] was one of the first to receive the gospel during the early years of the Anabaptist revivals of the 1500s. However, by the 1700s the materialistic slide of the Mennonites in Holland had its effects on Prussia as well. By the late 1700s, the Mennonites of northern Germany had enjoyed more connection with their conservative Protestant and Evangelical neighbors. Some of this had good result.[2] However, economic and societal pressures bit by bit diluted the German Mennonites—almost completely—into mainline society. By the time of the Franco-Prussian wars of the 1890s and WWI in the 1920s, many Mennonites were getting involved with politics, nationalism, and even starting to fight in wars.

After WWI

 

After WWI conditions were tough for all Germans—Mennonites included. The penalties placed on the German people by America and their allies crippled the economic stability of Germany. Farmers were hit particularly hard. Many farmers incurred large debts and were even forced to export their crops to support the surrounding countries hurt by the war.

 

The stock market crash of 1929 made a terrible situation even worse. Not only did it further crush the German economy, it also caused an uneasiness by revealing an unexpected weakness of western industry and capitalism. The ripple effect of this crash in the already-struggling post WWI Germany was devastating.

Could the two crosses be fused? Joseph Stalin and Marxism

 

Added to this economic pressure in the West, the Russian Revolution led by Joseph Stalin was wreaking havoc all over the East. Notably affected by this revolution were the German Mennonite Brethren in Russia. Stalin’s reign of terror was notorious. German Mennonites frequently heard stories of how the “Communists” were making matters in Russia unbearable. By this time, some of their Russian Mennonite brethren had enormous farms. These farms became sitting ducks to Stalin’s forced economic plans of state ownership. Naturally, anti-communist feelings were strong.

 

Everyone was looking for answers. But they were looking in the wrong place. Their Bibles apparently were no longer looked at as a blueprint. Some looked to Western ideas of democracy and capitalism; others looked to the East and wanted to try the new “Marxism.” Regardless, everyone longed for a new, bold nationalism that would restore their honor and protect what little wealth, freedom, and property they had left.

Major compromise

 

At this point a zealous, strong-handed political conservative by the name Adolf Hitler came to the scene. Hitler promised a unification of the German people, protection against the Communists, and a list of new “economic stimulus packages.” All these ideas promised Christian morality and prosperity for all good Germans. Some had cautions about Hitler’s intensity. But when it became election time, it was the “issues” that people voted for … and Adolf Hitler had the political cure of the day. It should always be remembered that Hitler was voted in by a fair democratic election process. Many liberals preferred the Communists. But the conservative Evangelicals, along with the German Mennonites, gave their vote for the new guy with the little mustache … complete with their new motto, “Heil Hitler.”[3]

The new plan

 

As part of a new “stimulus package,” in 1933 Hitler canceled all farming debts and reformed trade relations to benefit the German farmers. These changes actually made the German farmers part of the privileged class. Communist supporters were hauled off to concentration camps and many of the territories taken from Germany after WWI were quickly given back by rapid military actions. Germans were thrilled with these changes. When Austria fell to the marching armies, Germans were electrified. The Protestants were so happy that they even took down the cross that rested over the very castle where Martin Luther had translated the Bible, and put up a Swastika in its place.[4]

What was the spiritual cost?

 

What was the effect of Nazi nationalism on the Mennonites? Historically, the Mennonites had a heritage of separation from worldly politics. Could they get involved in politics and still stand against this new mindset? In a word—no.

 

Sadly, the Mennonites of Germany joined in with the jubilant nationalistic feelings that were spreading. As a matter of record, the German Mennonites were so happy with their new Führer[5] that they wanted to express their official gratitude to him. In a telegram written September 10, 1933, the sentiments of a church council that had just taken place were expressed:

To Chancellor Adolf Hitler, Berlin:

The Conference of East and West Prussian Mennonites, assembled today in Tiegenhagen, Free State of Danzig, feels deep gratitude for the powerful revival that God has given our nation through your energy, and promises joyful cooperation in the upbuilding of our Fatherland through the power of the Gospel, faithful to the motto of our forefathers: No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid which is Jesus Christ.”[6] (Emphasis and italics mine.)

I’m sure Hitler didn’t take time to answer every telegram that he received, but this one he replied to personally:

For your loyalty and your readiness to cooperate in the upbuilding of the German nation, expressed in your letter to me, I express my sincere thanks. —Adolf Hitler

Yikes!

 

Now to the defense of these German Mennonites, we have to remember that the atrocities that Hitler committed were not completely known at this time. On the other hand, there is a very important lesson to learn from just that point. When the church gives its support and affirmation to the ways of this world, when the church condones “lesser evil,” it finds itself praising an antichrist.

Quick seduction

 

Caught up in the feeling of the day, in 1933 the United (Vereinigung) Mennonites stopped asking for special treatment as conscientious objectors from war. In 1934 “nonresistance” was removed from the Mennonite confession of faith.

 

In 1939 when the German armies took over Prussia bringing the Mennonites of Danzig to be united with the rest of Germany, the Mennonites saw it as an act of God. Emil Händiges, of the United (Vereinigung) Mennonites wrote:

Our German peoples have endured unspeakable difficulties under the Polish yoke during its twenty year foreign rule. The most difficult at the end. Then God, the Lord, helped them through the hand of our Führer and freed them. We thank our Führer for this act of liberation.[7]

 

Mennonite and conservative Evangelical journals praised these military conquests by the German soldiers. These journals frequently quoted from the Prophets and the book of Revelation, showing Germany’s place as “God’s people” in prophecy.[8]

Nazi belt buckle, emblazoned with the words “God with us.” Gott mit Uns

 

Today it is easier to think of these German soldiers as committed pagans and monsters. “After all,” we tell ourselves, “how else could they have conducted all of those terrible deeds?” The sober truth is that most of those German soldiers claimed to be Christians. Astonishingly, the belt buckle worn by all of these so-called “Christian” Nazi soldiers boldly proclaimed, “Gott mit Uns.”[9]

 

By 1940 the subtle influence of this political leaven had almost completely taken over the German Mennonites. Issuing a proclamation representing the political posture of the Mennonite Union during this time, the United Mennonite church wrote: “The Conference will not do anything that would even have the faintest appearance of opposing the policies of our leader (Führer).”

 

Reading this stuff, I had to ask, “Could this still be called Anabaptist?” I don’t personally think so. But more importantly, can they be called followers of Jesus? These changes were a pretty far cry from the decree of separation from the world and shunning of earthly government that was espoused by the early Anabaptists in the words of the Schleitheim Confession of 1527. It is obvious that their original convictions had grown stale.

Fresh faith

 

During this time of compromise, there were small groups of first-generation Anabaptists on the scene. A first-generation Hutterite group led by Eberhard Arnold[10] was just becoming organized during this time period. Enthusiastically embracing the foundational ideas of Anabaptism, they were dismayed over the posture of their Mennonite spiritual cousins.

 

When the Nazi authorities found out about these new Anabaptists, they became alarmed. The Hutterites’ radical theological and, particularly, their strong economic stance was more than the Nazis would stand for. But because of their radical stance, the loosening Mennonites were getting heat for also being called “Anabaptist.” When the authorities asked the politically-friendly Mennonites if they were associated with the new Hutterite group, the Mennonites didn’t exactly stand up for them. In a united effort of both the northern and southern Mennonites, an official disclaimer stated: “The Hutterites belonged neither to the Vereinigung (Union) of German Mennonite Churches, nor to any other organization within our Free German Mennonite Church.”[11]

 

It wasn’t long until this new Hutterite community was raided. Fortunately, most of them made it out of the country, and the new group ended up as refugees in England. When England, the US, and Canada would not let the new group settle in their countries, the American Mennonites came to their rescue through the help of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). The MCC helped the Hutterites immigrate to Paraguay, conveniently close to a group of Colony Mennonites that the MCC was already helping.

More Mennonite Nazis!?

 

However, just when the Hutterites thought they were far, far away from the dreadful politics of their homeland, they discovered that thousands of miles away, virtually in the “middle of nowhere,” these South American Mennonites were also indoctrinated with Nazi politics!

 

The Mennonites there in Paraguay were living in terrible conditions and they spoke frequently to the Mennonites of Germany. Many felt that if Germany defeated Russia, then the Colony Mennonites would have a chance to leave South America and come live in Germany.[12]

 

Like their brethren in Germany, the Mennonites of Paraguay had also had council meetings to discuss the advantages of Nazi politics. After their church council, they also blessed the Nazi government and saw the Nazis as the political party that was upholding conservative Christian values. After the conference, the Colony Mennonites of Paraguay wrote:

With greatest excitement we German Mennonites of the Paraguayan Chaco[13] follow the events in our beloved Motherland and experience in spirit the national revolution of the German people. We are happy that in Germany, after a long time, a government that freely and openly professes God as Creator stands at the head of the nation … With special sympathy we hear that the current government takes seriously the realization of Christian principles in social, economic, and cultural life and especially emphasizes the protection of the family.[14] (Emphasis mine.)

One youth leader writing home to Paraguay, while studying in Germany, wrote: “If one lives through such weeks in Germany, one is drawn involuntarily under the spell of the Führer and can do nothing else than confess oneself a National Socialist.”[15]

 

The new Hutterites were disappointed. The living conditions of Paraguay were horrible indeed, but they felt that the freedom of worship was worth the cost. Emmy Arnold once wrote in a letter, “Better hookworm, than hooked cross (swastika).”

 

Responding to the lack of education and deplorable living conditions of the Colony Mennonites, the Hutterites quickly went to work trying to educate and offer social aid to the different Mennonite groups. Holding preaching services and hymn sings, some repentance progress was made. However, it was still a hard, upward fight. On one occasion, when the Hutterites came into a church building that the Mennonites had generously opened for them to worship in, the Hutterites were met with a framed picture of Adolf Hitler. The picture was front and center … right over the communion table![16]

The war ends

 

We know how part of the war story ended. Germany lost the war, Hitler committed suicide, and soon all the atrocities of the Nazi party were being broadcast to the world. The Mennonites as well as conservative Protestant, Catholic, and Evangelical groups repented of their support of this antichrist. Mennonite leaders even repented publically.[17] The Mennonites of South America followed suit, and eventually the political answers of the little German Führer were vehemently discarded.

 

Yet, somehow, something was lost by this pandemic compromise. I believe that something was particularly lost from the Mennonites. Compromise of this magnitude from mainline Protestants and Catholics was one thing … the world was somewhat used to seeing that. But when even the “radical Christians” were seen bending their knee to this evil, then something deep was lost.

 

The German church that emerged out of WWII Germany was anemic. Secularism has claimed the day, and today radical Christianity is virtually unheard of there.

How did this happen to the Mennonites?

 

When I lived in Germany 20 years ago, I was a new convert to many of these Anabaptist ideas like nonresistance and separation from worldly politics. Walking into a Mennonite church there, I noticed on the walls the war memorials of Mennonites who had fought in the war. My guide was a man in his seventies who remembered the war period well. I asked him, “How did this happen? How did the Mennonites get swept up into all of this Nazi nationalism?”

 

He somberly told me, “It came over us like a revival.”

 

That was an impressive answer, and I am sure that at the end it did indeed come on them like that. But was it completely unexpected? I now think that the compromise was more insidious than the Mennonites were aware of. As the years go by and I watch the way modern conservative Mennonites respond to politics, I can somewhat understand how this could happen again. I now think that instead of being a sudden change, it rather happened because of a long time of slow compromise. James Peter Regier says it well in the conclusion of his excellent essay on this historic time period of Mennonite history:

It seems then, that the biggest flaw of the Mennonites was not any immediate error. Instead, it was the natural consequence of years of gradual theological adaptations and compromises to better fit within the German community. When National Socialism came, the Mennonites no longer had the capacity to resist.[18]

Have we learned our lesson?

 

Have we learned our lesson? Have we learned that trusting in “good” political strategies is a really bad idea? The Mennonite lady at the pretzel bakery said that things are getting so bad that Mennonites simply have to start getting involved in politics.

 

I disagree.

 

It is exactly because the world is getting so bad that it is time to leave the failed solutions of the world and to start showing a model to the world of what the world would look like if we all would simply follow the teachings of Jesus.

So is voting a sin?

 

As we have seen, the issue is a subtle one. On the one hand, it seems so innocent. We might ask, “So what’s wrong with just telling someone who our choice would be for President?” That may seem innocent enough, but perhaps it is just this type of subtlety that warranted Jesus casting this rebuke: “Beware of the leaven of Herod.” Akin to the insidious pathos of pharisaical thinking, Jesus warned that the infection of “worldly political thinking” can grow in us, leading to our eventual spiritual destruction.

 

Jesus’ use of the metaphor “leaven” in this context is sobering. This word picture brings to mind the way we use leaven (today called yeast) in cooking. The small amount of yeast necessary to make a loaf of bread rise starts out seemingly innocuous and insignificant. However, once added to the dough, it is not long before that small bit of yeast affects the entire loaf, often swelling it to two or three times its original size. It happened to the Mennonites in Germany during WWII, and it can easily happen today if we look to worldly politics for our answers.

 

How is it with us today—in what way do we apply Jesus’ warning to “beware of the leaven of Herod?” Have we learned our lesson from history? We must learn from history that the world never has, and never will, come up with a lasting ultimate solution to their problems. Their shortsighted cures will always lack the clarity to see the root causes of their disease. As Jesus said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

 

If through this political season you have felt yourself infatuated with the agenda of worldly solutions, then please accept this lesson from the Mennonite Nazis and repent before you find yourself venerating the devil himself!

 

[1] Prussia covered basically (in varying degrees during history) what is now northern Poland and parts of northeastern Germany.

[2] For example, the Mennonites of Danzig shared a formal relationship with the Moravians of Herrnhut, who were only a few hundred kilometers away. When these Mennonites made their way to Russia, a large revival followed.

[3] This salute is often translated as “Hail, Hitler.” However, the German word “Heil” can also have connotations of “salvation” or “healing.” Thus the salute could have been used in the sense of seeing Hitler as a savior or healer of the German nation.

[4] Metaxas, Eric. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Thomas Nelson, 2010. 308.

[5] Führer means “leader.”

[6] Hans-Jürgen Goertz, “Nationale Erhebung und Religiöser Niedergang,” Mennonitsche Geschichtsblätter 31 (1974): 64. Quoted in: Mennonite Life, Mennonitische Vergangenheitsbewältigung: Prussian Mennonites, the Third Reich, and Coming to Terms with a Difficult Past, James Peter Regier, March 2004. http://www.bethelks.edu/mennonitelife/2004Mar/regier.php (Without Regier’s article, my article would not have been possible.)

[7] Emil Händiges, “Vereinigung der Deutschen Mennonitengemeinden: Eine Notwendige Berichtigung,” Mennonitische Blätter 81, No. 6 (June 1934): 6.

[8] Steven Mark Schroeder, “Prussian Mennonites in the Third Reich and Beyond: The Uneasy Synthesis of National and Religious Myths” (Master’s Thesis: University of British Columbia, 2001), 26.

[9] God with us.

[10] This group later became known as “The Bruderhof.”

[11] Schroeder, “Prussian Mennonites,” 18.

[12] Emmy Barth. No Lasting Home: A Year in the Paraguayan Wilderness. Plough Publishing House, 2009, 39-48. Available online at: http://cdn.plough.com/~/media/Files/Plough/ebooks/pdfs/n/nolastinghomeEN.pdf

[13] The Chaco is the semi-arid area of western Paraguay, a veritable wilderness now turned into productive crop and grazing lands by the industrious Mennonites.

[14] John D. Thiesen. Mennonite & Nazi?: Attitudes among Mennonite Colonists in Latin America, 1933–1945 (Kitchener, Ontario: Pandora Press, 1999), 73.

[15] Barth, “No Lasting Home,” 40.

[16] See picture this page. From Mennonite Church USA Archives in North Newton, Kansas.

[17] “Emil Händiges offered his public repentance at the Fourth Mennonite World Conference in 1948. Referring to such Anabaptist and Mennonite founders as Conrad Grebel, Thomas Müntzer, and Menno Simons, Händiges recalled that the movement had, among other things, been founded on a teaching of nonresistance.” (Quoted from: Regier, Mennonitische Vergangenheitsbewältigung.)

[18] Regier, Mennonitische Vergangenheitsbewältigung.

 

 

Originally published in The Heartbeat of the Remnant (November/December 2012), 400 W. Main Street Ste. 1, Ephrata, PA 17522.

 

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Church and State

 

Pilgrims and Politics

By Martin Weninger

 

Editor’s Note: This piece was written by Martin Weninger “Lingky,” a Swiss Brethren Anabaptist leader, explaining to the (Reformed) state church why the Anabaptists could not fellowship with the state church. The basic answer – that the state churches did not require following Christ in holiness in accord with His Word, but rather allowed every kind of sin and vice to go unpunished – was a standard answer across many types of Anabaptists all across Europe. In the case of the Swiss Reformed churches, the state church leaders confessed that the charges were true and (at least in the canton of Bern) tried repeatedly to reform the populace – apparently without much success.

  Weninger’s tract is an excellent apologetic for a holy church and a holy Christian life, following the commands of Jesus and the Apostles. It is an excellent apologetic for avoiding those teachers who would discount the need for holiness and obedience. Even if they have some good things to say, if they do not require holiness and obedience, we are not to listen to them! Of course, neither the Scriptures nor the early Anabaptists (Weninger included) believed in the possibility of sinless perfection on earth, but it is still a fact that Christians are “dead to sins, [that we] should live unto righteousness” (I Peter 2:24).

  It is sad but true that the historical record reveals that in 1538, Weninger recanted his faith. Whether he repented afterwards and rejoined the persecuted Swiss Brethren church or not is not known. “he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Mark 13:13).

 

  This English version of Weninger’s tract was translated by John C. Wenger and was originally published in the July 1948 issue of the Mennonite Quarterly Review. We gratefully acknowledge the permission of the Mennonite Historical Society to use it.—AVS.

 

The Text

 

The knowledge of and obedience to the will of God, that righteousness which springs from faith in Christ and also results in works (Phil. 1, 3, Titus 3, Heb. 11, James 2) wish I, Martin Weninger, called Lingky, to all those who seek to worship God in the spirit, with their hearts in the truth, and to serve Him with words and works unto His praise in Christ, Amen (Col. 3, I Cor. 10).

  I have been admonished by Brother Galle Hafner to prepare a vindication respecting the church attendance of the children of the world who walk in the uncleanness of impure lusts like other heathen (I Thes. 4, I Pet. 1 and 4). This I am inclined to do, to show to everyone who asketh the reason of the hope which is in me.

  Christ commands us to guard ourselves from the mixed teaching of the Pharisees and the befuddled expositors who pose as teachers of the Scripture but know not what they set forth or say (Matt. 16, I Tim. 1) and teach what is not profitable—just as the teaching of the priests does not profit—for base gain. Tit. 1: [They are] lazy bellies which may not produce works, all with deceitful minds, just like our priests. David says, They teach only sins, and glory in their pride and speak vain contradictions (Ps. 59), just as our priests also do now, teaching sins and hardening [people] in sins with their frivolous teaching, as it stands in Ezekiel 13 and Jeremiah 23. They minimize to the people the shadow of the wantonness of their life of sin (Jer. 8, 6, II Pet. 2), saying peace when there is no peace and promising freedom to those who ridicule God with their doings and walk after the lust and desire of their evil heart (Jer. 23, II Pet. 2), and they themselves are servants of corruption and sin (Rom. 6, John 8). They are called the Christians, even pious Christians and Brethren, who walk in darkness and have no fellowship with the light of Christ (I John 1), and whom the apostle of God calls children of the devil, as he says: He who does the right is of God and has the new birth of the Spirit, but he who does not do the right, but commits sin, is of the devil and not of God, because sin is also not of God. He has never known God and will also not see Him (I John 2, 3, 5 and III John 1). He who transgresses the teaching of Christ has no God (II John 1), and all his piety will no longer have any significance (Ezek. 18, 33, James 2).

  By such evident witness it is now clear that the doctrine of the priests is not of God, and that it does not correspond with the doctrine of Christ and the apostles. Furthermore it is no wonder that such false apostles and deceptive workers pose as apostles of Christ, because the god and prince of this world himself (II Cor. 4, John 12, 14, Eph. 2), the devil, poses as an angel of light. It is no wonder that his servants also, who draw the wanton people to themselves (II Pet. 2, Jer. 23) and harden them in sin so that they so much the less repent (Ezek. 13) and live, pose as preachers of light, whose end will be according to their works (II Cor. 11).

  Now when such hirelings, shepherds who have bargained for a definite wage, see the wolf coming they flee and do not lay down their lives for the sake of the sheep (John 10). Such shepherds the little sheep of Christ will not hear. But the foolishness of such shepherds who are come as from Christ whether [or not] He sent them, will be manifested to many people in the Free Territories [of Aargau], moved as they are by a seditious, blood-thirsty spirit which brought destruction in the rebellion of Korah, etc. Also many Zwinglian priests have turned back to the pope in Turgau, disregarding how it went with those for whom they had promised to stake their lives, and having been found to be liars (Apoc. 2). He who had not wished to recognize this must now see that it is true.

  They teach contrary to Paul (Rom. 6) that one cannot be free of sin and live in righteousness: “One must sin to the grave; no one can keep the commandments of God” (I John 3, 5) which is not true. The apostle of God testifies, Christ bore our sins on His back that we might be without sin and live in righteousness. How can the priests dare to say that no one can do the right and not live without sin? (John 1, I Pet. 2, 3): Christ took away our sin and undid the work of the devil. The work of the devil which Christ undid was sin, the sin of death, the death of damnation: as Paul testifies in Hebrews 2 that Christ took away the power of the devil, who had the power of eternal death, so that He might deliver us who all our life had been in fear of death and in bondage to slavery, that is, sin: as it stands in Titus 2: He delivered us from all kinds of unrighteousness. How would He have delivered us from the power and imprisonment of the devil if we lived in sin to the devil and had not received power, grace for grace, to oppose the devil by the firm faith of Christ? We who seek to be justified through Him, if we yet lived in sin, what would we have from Christ? (Gal. 2) For He broke the bond and led captivity captive and gave gifts to the people, and we are released (Psalm 124, II Tim. 2, Eph. 4). Sinners will not stand in the judgment of God nor remain in the congregation of the righteous (Psalm 1, 5). Sinners will be destroyed with one another and be wiped out (Psalm 37, I Cor. 6, II Pet. 2, Matt. 7, 13, Luke 13).

  Therefore beware of the fickle man and the sinner who walks in two streets (Eccl. 2, Luke 16), and beware of him who is bound by and entangled in sin, for at the last he will be taken and burned in the fire (IV Esdr. 16, John 15). Now observe how the poor priests weaken the passion of Christ and employ it for lasciviousness and a cloak of wickedness (I Pet. 2, Jude 1). Peter says: As those who are free and yet not using the freedom for evil. As also Paul admonishes (Gal. 5): Stand fast in your freedom and cast it not from you for its reward is great (Heb. 10). As Jesus Christ has set you free do not allow yourselves to be joined to the servile yoke. For where the Spirit of Christ is there is freedom, and the body is dead for the sake of sin (Rom. 8, II Cor. 3). He who hath not the Spirit is not of Christ (Rom. 8). For those who are Christ’s have crucified their flesh and destroyed their evil desires by desisting from the lusts of error (Gal. 5, Eph. 4). Therefore as the kingdom of Christ is internal (Luke 17), firmly within us, we have grace to do God’s will and service, and to please Him with discipline and fear (Heb. 12, Ezek. 36, I John 5). Since therefore we are under grace sin cannot reign in our mortal body (Rom. 6). For this reason did Christ die for all, that all who live should not live unto themselves, nor in their lusts, but unto Him who died for us and rose [from the dead] (I Cor. 6, II Cor. 5, I Thes. 5). We do not shun the light. For whoever is of God hears God’s Word (John 8, 18, I John 4). The priests wander and are not in the light for their works are evil (John 3, 7, 8). For there is no darkness in the light (II Cor. 6). It also has no fellowship with the darkness. Those who teach others and do it not themselves, from them the wrath of God will not long be withheld (Rom. 2, Matt. 7, Luke 6, Psalm 50). “Lord, we have preached….” But He will profess to them: “I know you not. Ye have done evil (Matt. 7). Depart from me.” Christ calls those His brethren who hear God’s Word and do the will of His Father.

  Dear one, How many are now Christ’s brethren who do God’s will? Therefore your fellowship is not a brotherhood of Christ. For you have as brethren: adulterers, heavy-drinkers, blasphemers, misers, usurers, dancers, carnival [masqueraders], alley ruffians: without a ban to make any difference, whether a person do evil or good. Dear one, Why? For this reason, that the priests who ought to discipline the people are themselves just like the people (Hosea 4). Therefore Paul teaches and admonishes us to keep clear of such people (II Tim. 2). For we may not be in the devil’s fellowship (I Cor. 10). The devil has fellowship with those who obey him in sin. But from those who withstand him he flees (James 4, I Pet. 5). David says, I dwell not with the wanton people, and have not fellowship with the hypocrites, and hate the assembly of the wicked (Psalm 26).

  Now since they do not preach the doctrine of Christ, and consent not to the saving words of the doctrine of godliness, Paul teaches us to shun them (I Tim. 6, Rom. 16). For they could pervert the faith of many, like Philetus and Hymenaeus, of whom Paul teaches us to keep clear (II Tim. 2). He who brings not the doctrine of Christ, receive him not into your house and greet him not (II John 1). He who greets him has fellowship with his evil works. How should I follow him into a temple or to other places? If he would follow me, I should have nothing to do with him so as not to have part in his evil works. A teacher [minister] shall be an example of the flock in love, faith, purity and good works, and care for the sheep (John 10, I Tim. 4, 3, II Tim. 1, Tit. 2, I Pet. 5, Matt. 5). This is completely lacking among them, as the Scripture testifies. Who would regard those as God’s apostles who lack the witness of an apostle? Now it is evident that the priests have neither the doctrine nor manner of life of apostles; yet they say they are apostles and that the Lord is among them.

  They call the Gospel a burden which no one can keep, contrary to the word of Jeremiah 23: Thou shalt not call my Word a burden. For Christ says (Matt. 11): My yoke is sweet; my burden light. John testifies, His commandments are not severe (I [John] 5). And we keep His commandments, and do what is pleasing before Him (I John 3). It is He who hath made us acceptable, and worketh in us both to will and to accomplish [it] (II Cor. 5, 3, Phil. 2, Ezek. 36). He hath created and prepared us unto good [works] that we should walk therein (Eph. 2). Therefore the might and all the glory belong to God alone (II Cor. 4, Dan. 9). Christ teaches that we should guard ourselves from those of this world who lead astray, for if it were possible they would lead astray even the elect (Matt. 24, II Pet. 3). Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, not from men nor through men but sent of God alone (Gal. 1). The rulers of the world have chosen the priests and commissioned them for a specified wage. Therefore it is of the world, and the [world] heareth them (I John 4). Thereby is fulfilled that which Paul prophesied (II Tim. 4): They will choose teachers for themselves who will tickle their ears, and [they will] not hear the truth, the saving doctrine of Christ, as also now the sect of the Nazarenes is everywhere spoken against (Acts 24, 28). John says, He who saith that he hath fellowship with Christ, and walketh in darkness, that is, in sin (Eph. 5), doth lie and speaketh not the truth. Therefore the priests tickle their ears with lies, in that they attribute to them the name and fellowship of Christ while they nevertheless still walk in darkness. And Paul testifies that He is become the Cause of salvation for those who obey His will in His death or suffering (Heb. 5, I Thes. 5).

  Those who hold fast to the beginning of the nature of Christ (as He then has imparted His nature in those things, for those who are God’s, from youth to the end of life), [it is] they [who] partake of Christ (Heb. 3). Therefore Christ says, He that endureth unto the end (Matt. 10) shall be saved. But not by doing wrong, but by doing right, as it stands in Ezekiel 18. But those who persevere in wrongdoing until the end Christ calls false Christians and false apostles who lead many astray (Matt. 24). As Paul also testifies: Evil men and those who lead [men] astray shall wax worse and worse, leading astray and allowing themselves to be led astray (II Tim. 3). It is true that they say they know God, and [yet] they are disobedient and an abomination before God and unfitted for all good works (Tit. 1, I John 1, 2). These are they who love the sensual pleasures of temporal life more than God, and have no love for the good, and have the appearance of a godly manner of life but deny its power (II Tim. 3). Paul admonishes us to turn away from such a spurious faith. Concerning separation read II Corinthians 6, Apocalypse 18, Acts 19, Ephesians 5, II Timothy 2, I Peter 4, John 15. One is to separate oneself from their evil works, and not from the world, in so far as one may keep oneself unspotted from them (I Cor. 5, James 1, II Pet. 1, 4, Eph. 4). The preaching of the priests is also an unfruitful work, when they give testimony from the pulpit; [their] preaching does not help; people are getting worse and worse; no one is improving. And the testimony is true, also of the priests, that the wrong is getting the upper hand (Matt. 24). As the Lord said of the time of Lot and of Noah, so it is in [our] country; let Him come when He will.

  Now you have testimony that the priests, and Christ and His apostles, do not have one doctrine. For the priests speak vain contradictions, as has been noted and proved sufficiently on the basis of the truth. Paul teaches us to judge spiritual things spiritually and not according to appearances (I Cor. 2), and not like the Jews did (John 7). He who lives carnally and is carnal-minded can neither perceive God’s ways nor the things of the Spirit. To him it is foolishness and a conundrum for he cannot know it, for it must be judged spiritually. Therefore everyone is lying [when he says] that he does not wish to judge, that it is not given to him; it is blasphemy (I Pet. 2) [when he says] that he does not recognize [the truth]—he is passing judgment on himself, receiving the reward of unrighteousness.

  If it [Anabaptism] is of God no man can withstand it. But if it is not of God it will disappear of itself (Acts 5, Matt. 15). Those of Zurich did not wish to be lords ; and if it should cost them their land, it must be dug out by the roots. Basle, too. Behold, it is getting green again in their land first. Psalm 124: If the Lord were not with us they would have swallowed us up alive; our bones would be no more. Our shield and protector is God. Through the faith and patience of Christ we overcome our enemies, following the example of Christ. All glory and honor be to God alone in His church in Christ Jesus.

 

God’s Seal: II Timothy 2[:19]

The right done from the fear of God is acceptable to God

Acts 10, etc.

By Andrew V. Ste. Marie

 

This November is another presidential election in the United States.  Once again the people of the United States have the opportunity to choose the next President and other elected officials.  In the midst of the heated campaign cycle, we who claim to be followers of the Lord Jesus would do well to ask the question: “should Christians vote?”  Are there compelling reasons to abstain from voting?  Indeed there are.

 

Voting and political involvement promotes dissension in the brotherhood.  Political affiliations and opinions promote division among Christ’s body.  One man is convinced that the conservatives are right and is excited to vote Republican; the next is convinced that a liberal agenda will do the country better and will vote Democrat.  A third says that everyone should vote for a third party.  They then proceed to debate and argue, then go away holding anger in their hearts toward each other.  Such things happening in the world is bad enough; why would we ever want to bring this horrid, division-creating plague into the church?  There has been enough bitterness, dissension, and division among those who call themselves Christians already; why would we want to add yet another controversial subject into the church which has no relevance to the Christian’s mission?

 

A friend of mine told me about how his father, who was a minister in his denomination, ran as a Republican for Congress.  When his political views became known, he was nearly thrown out of the church which was predominantly Democrat.

 

Voting and political involvement detracts from the Gospel.  Jesus has given His church the mission of taking the Gospel to every creature, baptizing them, and teaching them to keep every commandment He gave (Matthew 28:19-20).  Add to this the commands of the Apostles, and the church has a full-time job.  Why would we want to add to this divinely-given mission any efforts to campaign for political issues or people?  May God forbid that any effort would ever be made to convince people to vote one way or another across a pulpit meant for the proclamation of the Gospel and obedience to God’s commands!

 

Not only does politics detract from the Gospel in time and effort, it also detracts from the Gospel in credibility.  What if the church expends time, energy, and effort into a political candidate who is successfully elected, then it is discovered that the candidate was not what the church thought he was?  What if he gets the country into a deeper mess than it already is in?  The church will find itself discredited in the eyes of the world, and when she tries to proclaim the Gospel, the world will turn a deaf ear.  “You told us about the wonders of the political candidate last year and we believed you; it did not turn out; why should we pay attention to your Gospel this year?”

 

I heard a missionary to Africa once tell the story of how in an election year, some politicians came into the area where he was working.  They met with the native ministers and asked them to help campaign for their candidate, for which they would be paid.  The native ministers met together and discussed the situation in the missionary’s absence.  Having never discussed politics with the missionary, they came to the conclusion on their own that doing so would detract from the Gospel, so they refrained from doing it.

 

God will put in power whom He will, regardless of what we do or do not do.  God sent a dream to Nebuchadnezzar the king, warning him of the punishment awaiting his pride.  In the dream, it was stated that Nebuchadnezzar’s punishment would be “to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of  men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men” (Daniel 4:17).  Daniel the prophet praised God because “he removeth kings, and setteth up kings” (Daniel 2:21).

 

God will set up as President (or Congressman, or governor, etc.) whomever He has chosen to allow to use that office.  His purposes will be accomplished.  If God has chosen to set up a certain person as President, all of earth can oppose it – but in vain.  God’s will shall be accomplished.  If God has chosen to set up a certain person as President, it will not matter if I vote in favor of that person or another – my vote will not make a difference.  God’s will shall be accomplished.

 

Voting and political involvement consumes valuable time which could be spent on the Kingdom of God.  Even if one never says a word to another person about politics, if he votes and keeps himself informed on the issues and candidates, he must pour a large amount of time into politics.  Imagine all the time spent reading, researching, pondering, forming resolutions, and acting on political subjects!  Now imagine how much could be accomplished for the Kingdom of God in that much time!  Time spent reading the Word of God and good books, researching and studying important topics, pondering God’s truth, making resolves, and then acting on them!  How much time which could be spent furthering the church’s God-given mission is wasted on the worthless politics of this hell-bound earth!

 

Voting and political involvement compromises nonresistance.  Jesus was clear about nonresistance: “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44).  “Resist not evil” (Matthew 5:39).  We who profess to be Christians must obey Jesus’ commandments, including these ones.  How then is it an expression of nonresistance and love for our enemies when a man, professing to be a Christian, casts his vote for the Commander-in-Chief of the American military?  How is it an expression of nonresistance when he purposely votes (if he chooses to do so) for a man whose principles are to attack the enemies of America and to fight in war against those who attack our country?  War is the way the kingdoms of this world settle their disputes; let us, followers of the Prince of Peace, keep far away from partaking, even indirectly, in their diabolical method of “problem-solving”.

 

Voting and involvement with politics blurs the line between the church and the world.  Earthly government, politics, voting, lobbying – all are worldly methods to take care of worldly issues.  Christians involving themselves in such activities are at best compromising with the world on these issues (if not completely giving up to the world).  The Bible talks again and again about the necessity of keeping separation from the world:

 

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (I John 2:15-17).

 

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

 

“No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (II Timothy 2:4).

 

Fellow-Christians, we have a divinely given mission – to spread the Gospel, baptize, and teach the commands of Jesus and His Apostles.  We have no time or resources to waste on the vanity of politics.  We must not compromise nonresistance or separation from the world; we must not mix the Two Kingdoms (the Kingdomof Godand the kingdoms of this world) by involvement in politics.  May we carefully avoid any political entanglement or any involvement with other things with which our enemy, the Devil, seeks to ensnare the church and turn it from its mission.

 

“Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another” (Romans 14:19).

 Originally published in The Witness, September 2012.

By John M. Brenneman

Editor’s Note: The following piece was written in 1863, in the height of the Civil War, by a bishop in the (Old) Mennonite Church who lived in Elida, Ohio. It was part of Brenneman’s first booklet, Christianity and War and was part of the appendix, titled “An Address to the Mennonite Brethren”. This brief writing is as relevant today as it was in the Civil War. Bold emphasis has been added. Christianity and War is one of the best defenses of nonresistance I have ever read. It is available from Sermon on the Mount Publishing.—Ed.

Dear Brethren:

  Whereas we have now met with perilous times—times of sorrow and distress, while the whole world, as it seems, is lying in wickedness and in rebellion against God and His laws, it is surely high time for us to “awake out of sleep,” and be on our guard: for we are surrounded with snares and temptations on every side, wherewith Satan is aiming to ensnare us. Let us, therefore, “watch and pray, that we fall not into temptation.”

  And, whereas thousands are now engaged in fighting for a worldly kingdom, which is but transitory and vain, ought we not then also, who profess to seek a heavenly country, to “fight the good fight of faith,” and be more vigorously engaged in fortifying ourselves against the assaults of our spiritual enemies, lest they break in upon us unawares, and rob us of our rights and privileges. Let us be as Paul writes to the Ephesians: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil: for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore, take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God: pray always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” Eph. 6:10-18. Thus we can see, my dear brethren, that a soldier of Jesus Christ must be well armed from head to foot, in order to be able to withstand the attacks of the enemy. Oh, let us not delay to seek fresh recruits, and to have them all well armed, for we may yet have hard battles to fight. Do not be discouraged, for our Captain is strong and well experienced; only follow in His footsteps—do as He bids you—keep close to His banner, and by His all-powerful aid, we shall finally be more than conquerors; yea, triumphant over sin and Satan, death and hell.

  Although we wrestle not against flesh and blood, and war not after the flesh, as the weapons of our warfare “are not carnal;” yet it becomes us, nevertheless, to be true, loyal, and faithful citizens to our worldly government in all points that do not militate against the laws of our blessed Redeemer; and as our government has thus far allowed us freedom, and liberty of conscience, to worship God agreeably to the promptings of our most holy faith, we ought, therefore, to regard and respect our government, and earnestly and sincerely pray for its continuance; yea, we ought to support such a government in all things it may demand of us, if it be not against the pure doctrine of Christ. But should our government ask of us anything that is contrary to the gospel of Jesus, then we must obey God rather than man. But we ought to be truly thankful to God and our government, that such provisions have thus far been made for the “defenseless Christians”, that instead of taking up arms to slay their enemies, they have always been permitted to pay an equivalent in money; and in reason we could ask no more. Oh, let us, then, all be true loyal and faithful subjects: and whereas we cannot, for conscience sake, help uphold the government with carnal weapons, let us, at least, give to it this advantage—the assurance that it never need fear a rebellion from us; and let none be in anywise injurious to the government of our land; but pay willingly and without murmuring all its demands and just dues, without defrauding (if we even could) in the least; knowing that, even if we could escape the punishment of men, we could not escape the punishment of God. What a self-contradiction it would be, if, after professing a non-resistant Christianity, we should be found guilty of resisting the government by rebellion and disloyalty! I would say to my ministering brethren, Expel from the church every brother that dares rebel or in any way act injuriously to the government. And, my brethren, let us not forget to pray for the government and for all those in authority, that under them, by the grace of God, “we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty” (I Tim. 2:2): yea, let us pray for the restoration of peace and union in our distressed and troubled country, remembering that the “effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” Jas. 5:16. Let us cast all our cares upon God, knowing that he careth for us, and you, my dear brethren, who are placed as watchmen over the flock, “blow the trumpet, give the alarm, be instant in season and out of season,” as those who must give an account of the precious souls placed under their care; for these are alarming times.

  And, oh, my dear brethren, could I only persuade you all to lay aside and banish from your minds that hurtful and baneful [political] party spirit. Behold, what havoc it has made in our states! and now it has also entered into the churches and is separating them. Is it not enough for us to be Christians? Or must we also be called, or call ourselves, after a worldly name—a Democrat or a Republican? Surely, we ought also to guard against this evil. If we are Christians it is enough to qualify us for every duty. Oh, let no party names tear asunder the bond of love and brotherhood! We ought, by no means, to allow ourselves to be called by party names; and, oh, how shameful for Christian professors to dispute and quarrel about political matters! For those who profess to be followers of Christ, walking in His steps, and who are to be of one mind, one heart, and one soul—for one of them to say, “I am a Democrat,” and another, “I am a Republican,” and then to commence to dispute and quarrel with each other! I say, it is a shame for a Christian professor to do this; and I believe that a true Christian will not be guilty of such follies. And as political matters are now carried on to extremes—to excess—beyond the bounds of reason and religion, I would say, Stand aloof! Keep at a proper distance and within the bounds of Christianity! Dear brethren, suffer yourselves to be persuaded and convinced of the inconsistency of non-resistant professors taking part in worldly elections, and in the choosing of worldly rulers. Is it not overstepping the bounds of a non-resistant Christianity, when we help choose men into office in which it becomes their duty to use deadly weapons? Is it not, then, plain that whosoever does this, acts in opposition to the non-resistant principles and their profession? Therefore, be separate and touch not the unclean thing—run not with others “to the same excess of riot” (I Pet. 4:4), and let our moderation in this respect “be known unto all men.” Phil. 4:5.

  Let us, by our walk and conversation, declare plainly, that we seek a heavenly country; and let us not be entangled with the trifles and follies of this present evil world, as to neglect the “one thing needful.” Surely, a man may be useful in upholding and supporting the government, without going beyond the bounds of reason and sense. Let us seek more those things which are above, “having our conversation (or walk) in heaven,” and letting our “light shine before men, that they may see our good works.” Let us be good and kind to all who stand in need, especially at this time. Let us not forget the widows and the orphans, but open to them our hearts and hands, and not only say to them, “Be ye warmed and filled,” but give them what is “needful for the body.” Jas. 2:16. Oh, let us live as Christians: in love, peace, and union. Let us build up each other in our “most holy faith,” and let us “follow after the things which make for peace and things wherewith one may edify another.” Phil. 4:19. “Finally, brethren, be perfect, be of good comfort; be of one mind, live in peace, and the God of love and peace shall be with you.” II Cor. 13:11.

  “I will go in the strength of the Lord.” Psa. 71:16.

  “Trust in the Lord forever; for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.” Isa. 26:4.

 

The Church and the World walked far apart On the changing shore of time; The World was singing a silly song, And the Church a hymn sublime.

 

“Come, give your hand,” said the smiling World, “And together we shall go!” But the good Church hid her snowy hand And solemnly answered, “No!!

 

I will not give you my hand at all, And I will not walk with you. Your way is the way of eternal death, And your words are all untrue.”

 

“No, walk with me a little ways,” Said the World with a kindly air. “ The road I walk is a pleasant road, And the sun shines always there.

 

Your path is thorny and rough and rude, But mine is broad and plain; My way is paved with flowers and dews, And yours with tears and pain.

 

The sky to me is always blue, No lack, no toil I know; The sky above you is always dark; Your lot is a lot of woe.

 

My way, you can see, is a soft, easy one, And my gate is high and wide; There is room enough for you and me; So let’s travel side by side.”

 

Half shyly the Church approached the World And gave him her hand of snow; And the false World grasped it, and walked along And whispered in accents low,

 

“Your dress is too simple to please my taste; I have pinks and oranges to wear, Sensuous hues for your graceful form And sprays to fluff your hair.”

 

Then added he, with a shake of his head, Shielding his eyes in the glare, “ It makes much sense in this fierce sunshine Your comely calves to bare.”

 

The Church looked down at her plain, modest clothes And then at the dazzling World, And blushed as she saw his handsome lip, With a smile contemptuous curled.

 

“I will change my dress for a prettier one,” Said the Church with a smile of grace; So her simple garments were stashed away, And the World gave, in their place,

 

Beautiful satins and flowery sheens, With roses and lace and swirls; While over her forehead her bright hair fell In two bouncy, enticing curls.

 

“Your house is too plain” said the proud old World, “Let us build you one like mine, With kitchen for feasting and rec room for play And cabinets never so fine.”

 

So he built her a costly and beautiful house; Awesome it was to behold! Her sons and her daughters met frequently there, Shining in purple and gold.

 

There were cushioned seats for the lazy and rich, To sit in their glutton and pride; But the poor who were clad in humble array, Were scorned ‘til they went outside.

 

Powerpoints and films in the halls were shown, And the World and his children were there. Laughter and music and Ping-Pong were heard In the place that was meant for prayer.

 

The angel in mercy rebuked the Church, And whispered, “I know thy sin.” Then the Church looked sad, and anxiously longed To gather the children in.

 

But some were away at the midnight bowl, And others online did play, And some were hangin’ at Pizza Hut: So the angel went away.

 

Then said the World in soothing tones, “Your children mean no harm— Merely indulging in innocent sports,” So she leaned on his proffered arm,

 

And texted, and chatted, and uploaded photos, And walked along with the World, While countless millions of precious souls Over the fearful brink were hurled.

 

“Your preachers are too old-fashioned and plain,” Said the smart World with a sneer. “ They frighten my children with dreadful tales Which I do not like to hear.

 

They talk of judgments and fire and pain, And the doom of darkest night. They warn of a place that should not be Mentioned to ears polite!

 

I will send you some of a better stamp, More brilliant, educated, fast; Who will show how men their flesh may please And go to heaven at last.

 

The Father is merciful, great and good; Loving and tender and kind. Do you think He’d take one child to heaven And leave another behind?”

 

So she called for pleasing and smart divines, Deemed gifted and great and learned; And the plain-spoken men who had preached the cross Were out of her pulpits turned.

 

Then Mammon came in and supported the Church And sat in a well-padded pew; And preaching and chorals and floral display Soon proclaimed a gospel new.

 

“You give too much to the poor,” said the World, “Far more than you ought to do; Though the poor need shelter, food, and clothes, Why thus need it deprive you?

 

And afar to the heathen in foreign lands Your thoughts need seldom roam. The Father of mercies will care for them: Let charity start at home.

 

Go take your money and buy nice shoes And cars and pickups fine; And phones and iPods and cameras, The latest and costliest kind.

 

My children, they dote on all such things, And if you their love would win, You must do as they do, and walk in the way— The up-to-date way they’re in.”

 

The Church her purse snaps tightly shut And shamefully lowered her head. She whimpered, “I’ve given too much away. I will do, sir, as you have said.”

 

So the poor were pushed out of her mind; She heard not the orphan’s cry; And she silently covered her MasterCard As the widows went weeping by.

 

Thus they of the Church and they of the World Journeyed closely, hand and heart. And none but the Master, who knows all things, Understood they had once walked apart.

 

Then the Church sat down at ease and said, “I am rich and in goods increased. I have need of nothing, and naught to do, But to play, to sing, and to eat.”

 

The sly World heard her and laughed in his sleeve, And mockingly said aside, “ The Church has fallen, the beautiful Church; Her shame is her boast and pride.”

 

Thus her witnessing power, alas, was lost, And perilous times came in; The times of the end, so often foretold, Of form and pleasure and sin.

 

Then the angel drew near the mercy seat And whispered in sighs her name, And the saints their anthems of rapture hushed And covered their heads with shame.

 

A voice came down from the hush of heaven, From Him who sat on the throne; “ I know your works and what you have said— But alas! You have not known,

 

That you are poor and naked and blind, With pride and ruin ensnared; The expectant bride of a heavenly Groom Is the harlot of the World!

 

You have ceased to watch for that blessed hope, Have fallen from zeal and grace; So now, alas! I must cast you out And blot your name from its place.”

  Author unknown; this version taken from The Heartbeat of the Remnant (January/February 2010), 400 W. Main Street Ste. 1, Ephrata, PA 17522.

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