This week, we reflected on the relationship between the church and society in the Anabaptist tradition, being careful to note that there is not one way that is the Anabaptist response. This was the first week of our section on “Community,” which will take us through most of the rest of the series. Each of the succeeding sermons are designed to flesh out the foundation laid here. So if you are still left with questions (which is a good thing!), the upcoming series will hopefully address some of them (and then hopefully give you some more!).
Anabaptists historically began with a rejection of “Christian Culture” or Constantinianism. For many, this was a fundamental error of the church, when the church compromised to the world rather than being a community of non-conformity and “radical” commitment to Jesus [That term radical is abused a lot, but I think that this is perhaps a good place for it]. Anabaptist communities, in response, sought to become political spaces in themselves, not in the hope of dominating culture, but creating a distinct social, political, economic, and spiritual space inhabited by those who willingly choose to take on Christ’s baptism and cross together. In this way, they seek to participate in the kingdom of God (not build it, but join in God’s coming kingdom).
There was a certain anarchy to this. Anabaptists had a high suspicion of hierarchic power structures, the economic practices of the world, and the violent means used to enforce these. Most Anabaptists, thus, never sought to enforce their own cultural expression, no matter how just they thought it was, but strove to be a prophetic counter-cultural political space that calls the “kingdoms of the world” to account for their own injustices. For us, this means, for one, that our politics derives not from our allegiance to political “sides,” factions, or tribes, but from our life together as disciples in this counter-cultural political space. We are equal opportunity critics and equal opportunity reconcilers.
So we ask ourselves these questions. How not do we create a distinct, voluntary community of Jesus disciples trying to live into Jesus’ radical world vision? How do we nurture that community together? Those first two questions are important especially for Anabaptists who do not see their focus on “separation” from the world as a call to physically separate or to avoid relationships with our neighbors around us. Then, we who are in the world, how do we be a prophetic community of not only words, but action? And then, not only action, but of being?
In addition to this discussion, we take an unconventional look at “The Parable of the Violent and Greedy King” in Luke 19:11-27, through this lens. So listen for all of that.
Think about the above questions this week, and ponder what it means for us to be a prophetic counter-cultural community: how we are truly embodying the radical social world vision of Jesus, and how do we nurture that community reality week-to-week and day-to-day as a community?
For convenience sake, there is also a podcast available. You can find that here.