Have we strayed from our roots?
Many religions are defined by geography or people group… where homogeneity is assumed. They turn unscrupulously to political intrigue, coercion, oppression and brute force to impose their version of truth on the rest. They somehow justify, to their own satisfaction, the injustice and misery that they inflict. Persistence in such behaviors reflects a deeply flawed theology regarding the kingdom of God.
Historically, this happened in “Christianized” societies as well. We are overshadowed by constructs that evolved over the course of 2000 years and became cemented in tradition. Today, large segments of the Christian community direct considerable energy toward political activity and its polarizing rhetoric.
However, true Jesus followers around the world and in the annals of church history have often shied away from such things.
Non-involvement in the magistracy (i.e., civil authority, politics of the time) was common among the Anabaptists that some of us like to claim as part of our spiritual lineage. Swiss Anabaptists, for example, who took heat from both camps (Roman Catholic and Protestant), articulated their point of view as early as 1527.
Thirdly, it will be asked concerning the sword, Shall one be a magistrate if one should be chosen as such? The answer is as follows: They wished to make Christ king, but He fled and did not view it as the arrangement of His Father. Thus shall we do as He did, and follow Him, and so shall we not walk in darkness.
Another historian offers this summary:
“James M. Stayer has described the ultimate Anabaptist position as separatist nonresistance to the authority of the state. Separatist nonresistance comprehends not only pacifism but also a refusal to participate in the coercive force embodied in state institutions such as the magistracy."
Their emphasis on living the love of Christ, with amazing disregard for the consequences, cannot be overstated. Their decisions were governed by a high regard for their fellow man. They trusted in the power of the Gospel to transform those around them. They chose to stay on message by the most unequivocal means possible.
How about us? If we were as rooted in Christ’s love today…
"so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,…” (Ephesians 3:17-19)