Anabaptist Empire?

In my last post on Stuart Murray’s Naked Anabaptist I left with an image of “church on the fringes” that is diverse in expression.

Inevitable with diversity is conflict. And as Murray rightly points out (ch. 7), the Anabaptists have many shortcomings and have endured many internal conflicts. The movement is far from perfect!

Yet there are two values that can offer some correction to the conflict and division. Murray describes justice and peace as central to Anabaptist identity and mission. Instead of focusing on growth - building sustainable structures and organizations - Anabaptists have a “spirituality of ‘enough.’” Values of “simplicity and contentment” reflect a connection between spirituality and economics where there is a “working out together how to be disciples of Jesus in the area of economics” seeking justice and equality for all, especially those on the fringes. The thought of growing an Anabaptist Empire to compete with the world or other forms of Christianity is not even on the radar.

Similarly, the centrality of peace in theology and practice drives Anabaptists to seek unity amidst diversity. And despite countless examples where this hasn’t been the case, the value remains central. Peace and nonviolence requires great humility after all. The way of Jesus as a way of peace is not simply “an instance of the church capitulating to a cultural trend but a deeply rooted conviction, tested in the fires of persecution, which has endured for five centuries...Peace is at the heart of the gospel.” This requires giving up control of the church’s growth and influence in the present - the spirituality of ‘enough’ relates here I think - and choosing to “align...with the future to which God is leading history.

When I think of Christian influence in the world, and the great diversity not just in Anabaptism, but all of Christianity, this line always gets me:

Let the Christians of the world agree that they will not kill each other.

There will be no Anabaptist Empire. In fact, behind this belief is the biblical notion that there is only one true empire - the peaceable kingdom with Jesus as Lord and King.


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