I have been reading a book by Peter Hoover called The Secret of the Strength (SOS). I have found it interesting and informative. It introduces the reader to many different Anabaptist leaders and writers, and shows what they taught on a number of different subjects.
I have to admit that, while reading through this book, I have been surprised to find judgmental and harsh attitudes that some of the leaders held towards those that disagreed with them.
In chapter 15 – On to Visibility, where the sacraments are discussed, I found examples of extreme harshness that really helped me to see myself a bit better.
Lately, (even before I realized how harsh Menno and Dirk were) I found myself toning down much of what I wrote. I have been toning down in my blog, and especially in the articles in which I have written on OTVC (One True Visible Church), and on sin-free living. Many times as I write, I have been corrected by the Lord after I had stated things in a harsh way. I would then have to go back through an article and tone things down. I have been doing the same with my posts on web forums.
Quoted below are a number of what I feel are very harsh and intolerant statements that I found in the SOS book:
“To this, Dirk Philips replied:
Something horrible is coming up like smoke from the depths of the pit to hide the brightness of the sun. This is Sebastian Franck’s teaching that the holy rites instituted by Christ are no longer important, and that they are like a baby’s things and child’s play. Franck says the visible sacraments are weak elements, and no longer necessary. . . . To this coarse blasphemy I reply: Who has ever written so shamefully of the holy rites as Sebastian Franck? Shall God permit the devil to do with the sacraments whatever he wants?
It is an unendurable blasphemy for Sebastian Franck, a scorner of God and the sacraments, to look upon the first Christians as children who played with rag dolls, while he claims to have reached spiritual manhood. As if Jesus Christ, the apostles, and the first Christians did not have the Holy Spirit because they used outward elements in connection with faith! What abominable presumption and blindness! A man contradicting Christ and rejecting his rites. What foolishness of heart!”
“Menno Simons wrote:
Do not say, as some do, “I will renounce the (state) church and idolatry, I will serve my neighbour, etc., but I do not wish to be baptized.” Oh you blind men! Do you think the Lord is pleased if you reject his counsel and Word? No. He desires obedience and not sacrifices.”
“Dirk Philips wrote:
I must warn my brothers and sisters against proud despisers of the commands of Christ — men who have no regard for baptism, which Christ himself instituted, which the apostles so earnestly practiced, and to which the holy writings give such a prominent place. The nighttime meal is of no significance to them.”
“Menno Simons wrote:
If we do not perform the nighttime meal and baptism, or if we perform them differently from what God has commanded, we have by our disobedience neither covenant nor promise. Whoever teaches you differently deceives your soul.”
This is all quoted from chapter 15 of SOS.
On to Visibility
In the quotes above, they use terms like “coarse blasphemy”, “scorner of God”, “foolishness of heart”, “blind men”, “proud despisers”, and “deceiver your soul”.
This indeed is very harsh language to use towards others that you disagree with. While I am a strong believer in baptism, I could not call others such harsh names if they disagreed with me.
The following is a better way to write about others. The first clause is from the above quotes, and the second clause is what they could have used to convey what they were saying without appearing to be so harsh, condemning, and arrogant.
to this coarse blasphemy || to this unscriptural position
scorner of God || dishonoring to God
foolishness of heart || lacking proper judgment
blind men || not clearly understanding
proud despisers of the commands || not taking serious the commandments
deceiving your soul || leading you in a wrong way
I am seeing that these kinds of condemning statements are not proper, and even if they do not come from an arrogant heart, the statements themselves appear to be arrogant.
Arrogance — offensive display of superiority or self-importance; overbearing pride.
Arrogant — making claims or pretensions to superior importance or rights; overbearingly assuming; insolently proud:
When we are writing to others, our aim should be to correct them in meekness and love. We want to be careful that we are not more of a hindrance than a help to them. When we correct others, we want to win them, not insult them and further alienate them from what we consider the truth.
Now, I realize that Jesus and others in the New Testament used strong language towards those that were in sin – and especially those that were hypocrites – but I am referring to other professing Christians that disagree with us in what we teach.
Anyone can stir up the devil. Anyone can rail on others. But it takes wisdom to correct and point out what we consider faults in a way that will win people and not alienate them.
I have seen a lot of this being done in the writings of D.S. Warner and in the writings and preaching of the Church of God Restoration.
Those that rail on others and use disparaging language need to check their hearts for arrogance. I know this has caused me to check my heart, and the Lord revealed something to me that I did not know was there, and I have repented over it.
May God help us all to deal with our fellow Christians in a way that becomes the meek and lowly spirit of Jesus.
Here are some scriptures to meditate on concerning this issue:
1Co 4:21 What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?
Gal 6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
Col 3:12, 13 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
Eph 4:2, 3 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
2Ti 2:24, 25 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;
Tit 3:2 To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men.
Jas 3:13-17 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
1Pe 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
While the Bible tells us to “rebuke them that sin before all, that others also may fear” (1Tim 5:20), this does not mean that when you rebuke someone you have to use disparaging rhetoric like Menno and Dirk did.
You will not see any of this when Paul rebuked Peter (Gal 2:11-14). He said things like “he was to be blamed”, “carried away with their dissimulation”, “walked not uprightly”. This (I think) was very acceptable.
When John reproved Diotrephes for not accepting some of the brethren and casting those that did out of the congregation (3Joh 1:9, 10), the words he used were not like Menno’s or Dirk’s. The most forward thing John said was that they were “prating against us with malicious words”.
When Paul spoke of Alexander the coppersmith to Timothy, all he said was that he “did me much evil” (2Tim 4:14). He did not rail on him with the kind of rhetoric that Menno and Dirk used.
We are told to “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him” (Pro 26:4). The reason not to answer a fool according to his folly is clearly stated as “lest thou be like unto him”. We are not to imitate a fool in the way he speaks. Fools will speak insultingly, coarsely, undignified, make personal attacks, use obscene language, be abusive, and will be full of derision, contemptuousness and mockery.
Using harsh language towards other Christians that disagree with you comes from a lack of love, a lack of understanding, or from an arrogant attitude; or perhaps from all three. May God help us all to stand free from dealing with others in a harsh manner, but rather may we show our love and concern by following the above scriptural examples.