Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: suffering

Be a Christian, not a chameleon

Some members of the early church wanted Gentile converts to be chameleons. They thought that circumcising Gentile Christians would make them appear to be converts to the Jewish religion. Some Jewish Christians thought this would spare them from persecution by other Jews for associating with Gentiles. Such people among the Jewish believers were the true chameleons, trying to conceal that they believed something else than what other Jews believed.

Acts 15 records how the early church put an end to this by ruling that there was no need to circumcise Gentile believers. Soon Gentiles became a majority in the church. The chameleon temptation now was for believers to maintain enough outward conformity to pagan ceremonies to avoid persecution. In his letters, the apostle Paul gave many warnings and instructions against this.

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Image by Roy Buri from Pixabay

A few hundred years later a Roman emperor made Christianity the official religion of the empire. Persecution ended for a time, but before long the church became a blend of Christian and pagan practices. It wasn’t clear who was truly a Christian and who was just going along with the outward observances.

Many Christians remained outside of this chameleon creature that called itself the church of God and strove to live as Christians no matter what the cost. For some it cost them their lives, as the chameleon could not tolerate these believers who were a living reproach of its compromise. Persecution reared its head against those who maintained the integrity of the faith. Others called them by many names, the one which has stuck the longest is Anabaptist.

The Protestant Reformation began as a protest against the great chameleon, the Roman Catholic Church.  It only created several lesser chameleons, state churches with compulsory membership and salvation promised by ceremonies rather than faith.

Persecution of the Anabaptists appeared to have succeeded, those who remained were scattered and without leaders. God raised up new leaders who gathered the scattered flock. Travelling evangelists brought many new believers into the fold during these tumultuous times. The Anabaptists now became known as Mennonites, after Menno Simons, one of the boldest of their leaders.

Born again people In the state churches did not find spiritual refreshing in the ceremonies and sermons of the chameleon. Some met privately for mutual support and encouragement, yet conformed outwardly to the ceremonies of the chameleon. They considered themselves “the quiet in the land,” living an inward spiritual life and an outward life that would not get them into trouble.

Mennonites also believed in the importance of the inward spiritual life, but found no justification in the Word of God for living a double life. They believed that if the inward piety was genuinely of God, the outward life would show it, including the willingness to suffer for the faith. And suffer many of them did, for all the chameleons hated them.

Active persecution abated over time but much suspicion remained. Many Mennonite groups found tolerance through adopting the pietistic formula of being “the quiet in the land.” They tried to maintain the inward spiritual life, but in time that too faded away. In many denominations that use the Mennonite name today, the memory of what Anabaptist and Mennonite once meant has disappeared.

Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Timothy 2:19). Our Anabaptist-Mennonite forefathers believed that departing from iniquity was not something one did in secret, but that it also meant renouncing any form of duplicity.

Consider the words of the apostle Paul to the church at Philippi:

Only let your conversation [conduct] be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; and in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.

The apostle Paul believed that a willingness to suffer for the faith was a clear token of the salvation granted by God. God has not changed; neither should His people adjust to the spirit of our day. To have a rightful claim to God’s salvation, we must not attempt to be chameleons.

Why I wear a poppy

One hundred years ago Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae wrote the poem, In Flanders Fields.  McCrae was a surgeon with a Canadian artillery regiment in the First World War and a day earlier had buried a close friend on the battlefield near Ypres, Belgium. Poppy seeds lie dormant in the ground until the soil is disturbed by cultivation or some other cause.  The soil at Ypres had been thoroughly disturbed by the digging of trenches and graves.  As McCrae wrote, the area where his friend and many other soldiers lay buried was covered with red poppy flowers.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

This poem is the reason that so many people in Canada wear a red poppy pin on Remembrance Day and the days leading up to it. It is our way of showing respect for those who have suffered n war.

The last verse of the poem speaks of taking up the quarrel with the foe.  This militaristic sentiment might raise the question of whether a non-resistant Christian should wear a poppy.

I was four years old when I first saw my uncle Garry after the Second World War.  The scar on his chin was very striking to a young lad; he had been struck by shrapnel and part of his chin blown away.  When he was found and carried back to the hospital tent, they placed him on a board laid across two barrels and the wound was cleaned and sewn up without benefit of anaesthetic.

Uncle Norman was my mother’s youngest brother, born when she was 18.  She claimed that she was the one who raised him; her mother was busy with all the other responsibilities of caring for her large family.  One day when I was nine years old my father was waiting for me when I got out of school.  On the way home, he told me that they had received news that Uncle Norman had been killed in Korea.  A few weeks later my mother’s last letters to him were returned unopened.

Not many people who have been involved in war ever glory about what they have done.  The memories are too painful.  It is not unusual to hear stories of children going through a trunk of their father’s effects after his death and finding medals and citations for bravery in battle.  Dad had never mentioned them; he had been a hero in the war, but when the war was over he just wanted to forget what he had seen.

I have no desire to appear to be unmoved by the suffering of war. That is why I wear a poppy.

(This is a slightly edited repeat of a post from two years ago.)

He hath torn and he will heal

I took our little Pookie to the vet a few days ago; Pookie being our three year old Flame Point Siamese. This was a follow up visit after his latest ear infection had cleared up; the vet is trying to figure out why he so often gets these infections.  Her theory now is that it may be a food allergy.

Pookie makes these trips a few times each year and nothing horrible has happened to him yet, still he does not like these trips to the vet. He complains all the way there, all the time he is there, and only a little less when he know that he is on his way home.

Once we are home he is my friend again. He is a very friendly cat and will often come to me to let me know he values our friendship and wants a tummy rub. My wife is the one who applies the medicine in his ear, something he would dearly love to avoid. Yet when she sits in the recliner and puts her feet up, he will come and curl up in her lap. In other words, this little guy holds nothing against us for the scary treatment we sometimes mete out.

That reminds me of the words of the prophet Hosea that I quoted in the title. Sorrow and pain are a part of every human life, some experience less than others, some much more. Sometimes it is obvious that we are suffering the consequences of something that we have done; at other times it seems like we are victims of random acts of fate. Whatever the case may be, it would have been in God’s power to prevent the pain and sorrow.

Job found that it was futile to demand that God give an account of these things, partly because the interplay of our actions with the actions of others around us, aided and abetted by unseen spiritual forces, is simply beyond the capacity of our understanding.

Besides, blaming God, or demanding an answer of God, will do nothing to make our circumstances any better. Yes, God allowed this to happen. But, He is also the only one who can help us in such circumstances. So may we come to Him without bitterness or recrimination, love Him and seek His help and comfort.

That is the message of Hosea 6:1-3. Here is the full text of that message.

Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.

The baptism of suffering

So soon as the believer has the witness of the spiritual baptism and has received the baptism with water, he should yield himself willingly to receive the baptism of the shedding of his blood for the name of Christ, if required, and take on him the witness of blood, according to 1 John 5:8: “And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree in one.

The believer, in his baptism, is baptized into the body of Christ, the church (1 Corinthians 12:13. 27). And then he puts on Christ and unites himself to him to follow him truly and constantly, and bearing his cross after him. And should the believer be called on to suffer for the name of Christ, and to lay down his life for his name, he should be willing to be baptized with the same baptism of suffering and shedding of blood wherewith his Lord and Master was baptized when he laid down his life to redeem man from death, and this is the allegiance of all the true disciples of Jesus Christ in this world. “ye shall drink indeed of my cup and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with (Matthew 20:23). “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. The servant is not greater than his lord, if they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you (John 15:18. 20). “They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea the time cometh that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service (John 16:2).

“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). And verses 22 & 25: “Ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?” “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27).

For it is evident that when believers, as members of Christ, will enter heaven with Christ the heavenly bridegroom to the marriage supper of the Lamb, and drink of the new and sweet wine in heaven (which is manifested in John 2:10 and Matthew 26:29), that they must first drink with him the bitter wine of affliction and tribulation, and be baptized with his baptism (Matthew 20:22-23). But the drinking of this cup and being baptized with this baptism must be done and endured for the sake of Jesus Christ and for his name alone.

Henry Funk, A Mirror of Baptism

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