The very last message Jesus gave us before His crusifiction, is found in John chapter 17. Here in this chapter He makes His last appeal to the Father that we might all become one as He and the Father are one. He went so far as to consecrate Himself that this might take place among all believers. The consumation of His whole ministry was to prepare the way for the whole body to become one in Him and with the Father. Years ago when I first looked at this prayer, and seeing all the confusion and divisions throughout the church I wondered if Jesus knew what He was praying about. But in time I began to be gripped with the reality of this prayer, and that every prayer that Jesus ever uttered will surely be answered, including this one.
- “As you sent Me into the World, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth. I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word.”That they all may be one, as, you, Father, are in Me, and I in you; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. ” And the glory which you gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as we are one. “I in them and you in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that you have sent Me, and have loved them as you have loved Me. “Father, I desire that they also whom you gave Me be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have gicen Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. “O righteous Father! Thee world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. “And I have declared to them Your name and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them and I in them.” Jn, 17:18-26.
This is an amazing appeal from our Lord just prior to His agony in the garden and ultimate crucifiction. We all readily receive His offer of salvation that is accomplished at the Cross as He sanctified and gave Himself for us. But what about becoming one’ with each other as He and the Father are one? He offers salvation as a free gift to all those seek it, however, for us to become one with each other is not a free gift, but it requires that we, like Him, lay our lives down for each other. It is treason to the work of the Cross for us to ignore, separate or divide from those who may have different views in their theology from our own. It is true, we need to have correct theology, but we may have correct theology without ever seeking to become one with others of Gods children.
The untold divisions among us Anabaptists are so vast and so deeply set in stone, that it seems like an utter impossibilty for these to ever be reconciled. Yet we must, if we are to see Gods favor and blessing restored over us. There are those who say, things are so bad and beyond remedy among us, that God will have to clean up this mess by His second coming where all things will be retored in its proper place. Let me say this as carefully as I can. This is a misconception and a lie the enemy has for generations planted in the hearts of many of us Anabaptists. Those who rest in this kind of theology will someday meet the greatest disappointment imaginable. It is true, all things will come to light and righteous judgment will be meeted out at His coming, but we may be caught off guard and lose that which we were so confident that we possessed.
What is the motive behind all the divisions from our history past to the present day? Words fail me to speak of all the unbearable heartbreaks, lost relationships, and crushing disappointments this has created throughout all these generations. The hurts and wounds have penetrated so deeply for so long, that it has become part of our makeup within our genes. Many do not even know what it means to live a secure life in Christ where hope, joy and peace reigns within. This is almost totally missing in many of our Anabaptist cultures today.
The spirit of division is founded on the differences the early Anabaptists developed among each other as they navigated through the perilous times of persecution during the time of Menno Simons and since. He was from the Netherlands and also north Germany, when he placed a bann on the Swiss brethren to the south due to differences in their theology. This resulted in a deep trauma that shook the foundation of the whole Anabaptist movement. Well over one hundred years later another Mennonite leader rose up further implimenting the bann on the grounds of differing opinions. This was Jacob Ammann from the Bernese oberland, later from the Alsass. These divisions cut such deep marks in the hearts of the people that it followed down the generations to our very day. Even now, we are still marked and deeply bruised by the ongoing divisions, shunning and seperations.
Our purpose here to speak about our past or present history, is by no means meant to cast a shadow on any one person. We are all guilty in this matter, not one of us is exempt. But if we are to overcome this ongoing curse, we need to find its roots where in true humility and repentance we may break it. The root that gives life to this stronghold – is our determination of always being ‘right’ while others are wrong, leaving little or no possibility for negotiating, or in coming to terms through a spirit of humility and forgiveness.. These roots of being ‘right’ are grounded in the spirit of pride while wearing a mask of humility.
The ‘bann’ or ‘shunning’ as outlined in 1 Cor, chapter five, deals strictly with the issue of sin within the church, and how we must cleanse and purge the church from such. It says nothing of placing this bann on the grounds of differences among believers. Such severe measures are reservered for unrepentant members only, who involved in gross sin.
Whenever the bann is applied due to differences of opinion, it often leaves the person thoroughly traumatized and disoriented, its effects often following them throughout their lifetimes. It rarely has the effect that the bann is meant have, to heal or restore, for in such cases it is misapplied. Much time and many words are often expended in detailing the wrongs that many of these have suffered, yet rarely finding true healing or restoration from its deeply wounding effects. The ‘Bann, when properly applied will result in giving life, healing and recovery for the person caught in the grips of sin. But when it is applied for any other reason, it will result in death, for it is an extremely severe punishment when wrongly applied. This is not to say that there are those who do eventually overcome its traumatizing effects, some do.
As we attempt to address and underscore these issues of our deeply fragmented Anabaptist people. Let it be known, that we here at ‘Anabaptist Connections’ are by no means exempt from this stonghold, but by the great Grace of God must also find this place of deliverance and walk it out through victory in Christ. The spirit of always being ‘right’ is deeply entrenched in our culture, and can be rooted out only through a spirit of humility, a broken heart and repentance.
The verdict is out – we have been found guilty. We must come to terms of our record of shunning, dividing and traumatizing each other. This scourge has brought untold pain and heartbreak, often devasting and separating marriages and family relationships. Let us corporately seek restitution and forgiveness at the cross and not lose heart, for we shall yet see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Ps, 27:13.
Anabaptist Connections Team