A Glimpse at Anti-Semitism – Wayne Rutt

A Glimpse at Anti-Semitism – Wayne Rutt

Guest Blogger

Written by: Wayne Rutt

Is the deteriorating atmosphere regarding the Jewish people in the U.S.A. and abroad a new thing?  Even prior to the New Covenant, the Jewish people have been singled out for discrimination; it has never truly gone away.  So what is the current situation today, and how shall the Anabaptist community respond?  The answer requires reflection on the issues involved, biblical perspective, and living faith.    

Vandalism, shootings, stabbings, hate filled rants, eggings;  these all seem like somewhat common fare against Jewish people today.  The motives behind these crimes are often foggy, and truly there are many different platforms from which to address the issues.  A few of the motives have included: copy-cat attacks, white and black supremacy groups, poor neighborly relationships, plain hatred, and criminal opportunists.  Law enforcement has struggled to defend Jews because the hatred comes from such a wide spectrum of society.  Notably, it was reported, “…in most cases, the attackers have not stated a clear reason for their attacks” (2).  “They all had one common theme, which was the hatred of Jews, and that’s the common thread here and that’s what we have to keep our eye on,” said Evan Bernstein, the New York/New Jersey regional director at the Anti-Defamation League (2).  Astonishingly, Mike Huckabee reported, “Jews represent less than 2% of the American population, but 60% of religion-based crimes in 2018 were directed toward Jewish people” (4).  Day to day life has been somewhat unaffected in the Jewish communities of NYC, but there is a realization of the ever-present danger.  Externally, reminders of this reality are clear with the increased police presence in Jewish communities.  Internally, painful memories of the not-too-distant past still linger.

Tragically, anti-Semitic attacks have been committed and are being committed by those who would claim Jesus’ name; and yes, we have direct connections to old and very recent stories.  The truth of the matter is: false “Christians” are to blame for a percentage of the hatred perpetrated against the Jewish people.  The average religious Jewish person today would see the Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, and the Holocaust as instigated by “Christians.”  To unpack these statements, one needs books, not blogs.  Nevertheless, men who are considered to be Christian heroes such as Martin Luther, who have done much good, have spoken hatred toward the Jewish people.  Searching for an answer to Jewish rejection of Jesus as Messiah, Luther wrote, 

First, their synagogues should be set on fire…Secondly, their homes should likewise be broken down and destroyed….Thirdly, they should be deprived of their prayer-books and Talmuds…Fourthly, their rabbis must be forbidden under threat of death to teach any more…Fifthly, passport and traveling privileges should be absolutely forbidden to the Jews….Sixthly, they ought to be stopped from usury (charging interest on loans)….Seventhly, let the young and strong Jews and Jewesses be given the flail, the ax, the hoe, the spade, the distaff, and spindle, and let them earn their bread by the sweat of their noses…We ought to drive the rascally lazy bones out of our system….Therefore away with them….

To sum up, dear princes and nobles who have Jews in your domains, if this advice of mine does not suit you, then find a better one so that you and we may all be free of this insufferable devilish burden-the Jews” (4).  

Words have consequences.  Anti-Semitism today, therefore, is just seen as a continuation of these tragedies. 

Tears are needed amongst true believers in Jesus the Messiah because of a realization of the hideous stain to His name.  Jesus’ Name has been used by evil men as justification to commit their evil deeds, and we should be grieved!  There could be much debate on the views of Eschatology.  However, let’s agree on this point:  God never gave the church the authority to punish any ethnic people group with violence because of their rejection of Jesus as Messiah.  On the contrary, when James and John wanted to call down fire against those who rejected him, Jesus responded in Luke 9 with rebuke saying, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (3).   Anti-Semitism in all forms is contrary to Jesus’ life and doctrine!  We must weep over this evil.

From a purely human perspective, one can clearly see that poor neighborly relationships have not motivated these attacks.  There is a spiritual, even demonic, dimension to this problem.  Isaiah 43:10 speaks of the nation of Israel as “…my witnesses…” (3). The nation of Israel was chosen by God to be a witness for his name and an avenue of blessing to the nations.  Although the majority of national Israel continues to reject Jesus as Messiah, it is still a witness to the reality of the one true God; and how Satan hates God!  

An intriguing passage in Isaiah 25:8 mentions “…the rebuke of his people…” (3).  Throughout the Scriptures there is a “rebuke” (Jer. 24:9, 29:18; also consider Deut. 28:37, 1 Kings 9:7, Lam. 2:15) that follows the people of Israel when they refuse to follow the LORD.  The reality of the “reproach” Jewish people face today is gut-wrenching.  Ultimately, the Lord knows if judgment for disobedience is a part of the reasoning behind the irrational, unmatched hatred that the Jewish people are facing today.  However, the context of Isaiah 25:8 is futuristic “…He will remove His people’s reproach from all the earth.  For Adonai has spoken” change this to “…and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it.” (3).  Let’s be clear, only those who trust in Jesus the Messiah will be saved!  That said, if the present reproach is true, so also will it be true when God takes the reproach away.  There will be little wonder that in the consummation there will be tears to wipe away when “…all Israel shall be saved…” (3. Rom. 11:26).

How does this apply to us presently?  We do need a living faith. First, engage Jewish people.  Learn their current needs, personal experience with anti-Semitism, and listen to their family’s story.   Secondly, if Jewish people can be singled out for evil, why should they not be singled out for good?  There are many things for which we can show appreciation.  How about thanking a Jewish person for the way God has used them to preserve the Scriptures?  We are thankful for that preservation.  Thirdly, one must prepare the mind and the home.  Living faith acts. As Christians, we are duty bound to love every person and to teach our children to do the same. God forbid that the current situation continues to escalate!  However, America is not beyond the ability to act as Germany did during the Holocaust.  How will the Anabaptist community respond in heightened tensions?  Will it be willing to place its possessions and families at risk in order to help?    Fourthly, don’t forget who we are:  a grafted in Gentile (3. Rom. 11:17).  This misunderstanding of the roots of the faith has often led to a stance of pride.  Pride has its out-workings, and Jewish people have felt the brunt of “Christian” pride.  Fifthly, but certainly not least, share the Gospel!  Jesus is the Messiah. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” (3. Acts 4:12).  If we believe this, then we will call all men, Jew and Gentile, to faith in Him.

Anti-Semitism pervades society and has escalated recently.   Jesus didn’t give room for violent hatred against any ethnicity.  Will the Anabaptist community respond with indifference or the Spirit of the Messiah?  


  1. Brown, Michael L.  Our Hands Are Stained With Blood.  Shippensburg, PA:  Destiny Image Publishers, Inc., 1990.
  2. Dolsten, Josefin.  “What is behind New York’s rising antisemitism?”  The Jerusalem Post, 3 January 2020,  https://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/Antisemitism/What-is-behind-New-Yorks-rising-antisemitism-612958.
  3. Holy Bible, King James Version.  Michigan:  Zondervan, 1994.
  4. Huckabee, Mike.  “Mike Huckabee on anti-Semitic attacks, Gabbard saying impeachment will ’embolden’ Trump in 2020”  Fox News,  31 December 2019,  https://video.foxnews.com/v/6118991902001#sp=show-clips.

November 1, 2020

Religious Dualism

Religious Dualism

Guest Blogger

Written by: Chester Weaver


In the following article Dualism will be understood as separating Wholeness into two distinct parts in order for practitioners to feel good about themselves while not being Whole. The two separate parts may or may not include truth as part of each whole. Religious Dualism is a widespread Christian problem inherited from the Gnostic heresy. The Apostle John directly deals with the Gnostic heresy of his day in his first and second epistles.

Religious Dualism provided the justifying framework for the Roman Catholic Holy Wars, including the Crusades. After butchering Muslims, the crusading butcherers could take the Mass, be forgiven for any and all sins, and return to their work of butchering more Muslims. The consecrated wafer was, to them, Christ within, grace provided by the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. The pattern had been long established by this authority: commit sin, deal magically with the sin, commit sin again, deal magically with the sin, repeat continually until death. 

Martin Luther discerned the wrongheadedness of the process. He discovered that the Epistle of Romans teaches that salvation comes by grace alone, by faith alone, The just shall live by faith. There is no magic in the Mass; the Roman Catholic Church does not have all the authority that it claimed; the Pope is Antichrist. Faith in the finished work of Christ qualifies a soul to have his name recorded in the Books of Heaven. Salvation is by a forensic declaration of God. All past, present, and future sins are forgiven.

The early Anabaptists noted that Luther’s position, which became Reformation Theology, remained Dualistic. People still sinned regularly but the method of removing the sin was transferred from the Roman Catholic Church to God who kept declaring sinners to be righteous. Once again personal sin was no big deal because the sin counted for little as long as the soul was continually being declared righteous. Thus, the German morals on a broad social level declined with the passing of years. Martin Luther was distressed with the fact.

Any serious-minded, thinking person is repulsed by such dichotomy. Furthermore, the New Testament simply does not condone Religious Dualism; in fact, it repudiates it. The first Epistle of John zeroes in on the problem, noting that Religious Dualism is an expression of the Gnostic Heresy. Jesus Christ did have a material, fleshly body which practiced righteousness. He was Whole, Complete, One; He had no hypocrisy about Him. He expects the same wholeness to characterize the lives of His disciples. Apostle John labels Religious Dualism as the spirit of antichrist, which it truly is. 

Gnosticism teaches, among other things, that the spirit is good but the material is evil. It separates soul from body. Soul/spirit is really real but the flesh is evil, unredeemable. The only way to live successfully is to think and to live on two levels. The spirit/soul desires goodness and truth but the human body cannot really behave in good and true ways. It must be excused. 

Fallen human nature naturally gravitates to Dualism as “The Fix” to human failure. Throughout history religious people have been practicing Dualism as their religious Fix. But early on, the Almighty God commanded that His people worship only Him, no other. That kind of Fix was not OK. We know the record of human failure to obey that command. Idolatry has been mankind’s besetting sin, its traditional Fix.  

Even before Gutenberg’s printing press, prevailing Religious Dualism in medieval Europe disgusted people and motivated many earnest, truth-seeking souls to adopt the Waldensian faith and later to become Anabaptist. Religious Dualism in any form is phony, a religious game, unworthy of Christ or even of serious contemplation. Religious Dualism, in essence, claims that humans cannot be wholly redeemed, a slap in God’s face. And, instinctively, people know that doubleness is false; wholeness/oneness is true. Universally, people admire Jesus Christ as a living model of Wholeness. In His earthly experience Jesus Christ scathingly denounced the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees, giving them no space to justify any part of their dualism.

No one really respects hypocrisy; it is simply disgusting. It did not take much time for the people listening to Jesus to note that He spoke with authority, not as the scribes. Wholeness/oneness carries its own authority. The only real way for Dualism to deal with Wholeness is to persecute it. Three and one-half years were all the Dualists of that time and place could take of Jesus’ Wholeness and then they proceeded to get rid of Him.  The non-Dualistic followers of Christ have suffered with Him now for two thousand years. Universally, Wholeness exists as a threat to Dualism; it always has and it always will.

Why do the Dualists persecute Wholeness/Oneness? Hypocrisy has been the refuge of mankind for thousands of years. Anybody who breaks out of the Refuge exposes the Refuge as fake. People hate being exposed as fake. Human beings feel comfortable when other human beings are similar to them. Anybody who steps out of the Sameness of Dualism causes discomfort. Thus, the charge of Dualism cannot be tolerated because it unmasks the entire comfort system, exposing Dualism fakeness.

Idealistic young people are strongly attracted to Wholeness for its Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. At the same time, they struggle with their own fallenness. History repeats and repeats the story that eventually youthful idealism is lost to the pressures of Dualism. In other words, idealistic young people eventually learn to play the Human Game – Dualism.

However, no one really needs throw up his/her hands in despair. God Himself understands the human problem and addressed it directly in the New Testament. Jesus Christ both demonstrated and taught Wholeness. But to become Whole, a human soul must lose itself in repentance so that the Miracle of Resurrection to Wholeness can happen. Most people have been unwilling to do that. But throughout history some people have been willing and thus have discovered the deep and rich liberation of Wholeness.

The forgiveness of sin upon genuine repentance is the first qualifying miracle. Struggling with doing what one does not want to do and failing to do what he/she does want to do then follows. This Romans 7 experience is necessary in order to convince human beings that it requires miracles of grace to do right. The flesh cannot please God. But dropping off the end of the Rope of Despair into the Hands of Grace requires great faith, exactly what is necessary for grace to kick in and be effective. The Miracles of Resurrection power create an entirely new worldview, a whole new dimension to life because Wholeness is exactly what each human soul desires. Personal Dualism and Dualism everywhere become repulsive.

Wholeness is quite liberating! Fear of exposure is simply gone because there is nothing to hide. The light and the joy of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness energize and motivate the soul constantly! Christ smiles over the Healed Whole Soul. And the Healed Whole Soul smiles at the world.

February 1, 2020

Managers in God’s Household

Managers in God’s Household

Guest Blogger

Written by: Marlin Sommers

Managers in God’s Household: How to be a steward.

Fourteen-year-old Bob has the rather grandiose title, “Steward of the Woodpile”. While Dad is gone, Bob is in charge of the woodpile. Bob is thrilled. He promptly messages his friends and says, “Hey nobody’s home tonight, come over and we will have the biggest bonfire you ever saw.” The next morning the firewood has been consumed. The temperature is well below freezing. Bob’s mom and siblings are miserable, and Mom is left with some dangerous makeshift heating methods till Dad returns a week later.

A few miles away, sixteen-year-old Bill has a similar responsibility. Reckless consumption of firewood is not his style.  Rather, he only lets Mom put one piece on the fire every three hours. The house stays quite cold, especially for the toddler, but the wood pile is staying full. When the neighbors ask to borrow or buy wood since their gas furnace is out of commission, Bill lends them wood only on the condition that they will return twice the amount within a month. As a result, when Bill’s dad returns, the wood pile is a little larger than it was when he left.

Which boy was a good steward? The correct answer is neither. Everyone can agree that Bob’s behavior epitomizes bad stewardship. But unfortunately, we sometimes think that good stewardship means acting like Bill. In the words of one of my friends, many see stewardship as “merely saving and frugality.” A deficient notion of stewardship is sometimes used to defend miserliness, the pursuit of personal wealth, and questionable practices of the financially shrewd. These misunderstandings exist because we have often missed the point that stewards are responsible to act for the benefit of others.

Household Managers: Stewards are responsible for other people.

Steward is an older word sometimes used to translate the New Testament Greek term oikonomos. In addition to the cumbersome literal rendering of “household manager,” the term may appear in our Bible’s as “servant manager”, or simply as “manager.” While we might think of a household as consisting of mom, dad, and some children, households of the sort that had an oikonomos were much larger social units. They were likely to include multiple generations of family as well as slaves. The role of the household manager involved power and influence over a substantial number of people. It carried almost a governmental dimension.[1]

Stewardship has three parts.

1.       God has entrusted me with certain things. I am a steward of these things, which might be money, possessions, personal traits, spiritual gifts, or positions of power or influence.

2.       I am responsible to God for those things he has put in my control. 

3.       I am responsible for certain other people. God intends them to benefit from what I am entrusted with.

Popular teaching on stewardship trumpets the first two statements, especially when it comes to money. But too many times the third statement is neglected. Without the third dimension stewardship teaching can easily be warped. We must remember that a steward exercises a managerial role with respect to both possessions and other people.

Notice how the following parable emphasizes all three dimensions of stewardship.

And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions.  But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. (Luke 12:42–46 ESV)

The household manager here is entrusted with control of the food supplies. He is responsible to his master for how he manages those food supplies. He was responsible for his fellow servants, and his master intended them to benefit from those food supplies. The manager who acts like Bob and consumes for his own reckless pleasure can expect a fearsome punishment. The one who does his job well can expect commendation and promotion. Doing the job well does not mean acting like Bill and clinging to the stash; rather, it means using the stash for its intended purpose and intended beneficiaries. 

You are a manager in God’s household. God has given you resources and abilities to manage for the benefit of other people. This gives you both responsibility and dignity, responsibility to God for others and the dignity of playing an important role in God’s provision for humanity.

New Testament Applications

Besides the parable above, the figure of the household manager appears in Luke 16 with the parable of the unjust manager.  These parables emphasize stewardship of physical wealth for the benefit of others and faithfulness in positions of leadership or social power.

Paul calls apostolic workers stewards of the gospel (I Cor. 4:1-2). God entrusted them with the disclosure of the gospel, and they were responsible to God to make this available for others. Stewardship drove evangelism, teaching, and church planting. As churches formed, God raised up elders, or overseers from within them. Paul calls these elders or overseers[2] stewards. “For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach.” (Titus 1:7a) The emphasis here is not on stewardship of possessions, but stewardship as a position of responsibility. The church is often pictured as an ancient household. God is the master or lord of the house. Human leaders can then be no more than household managers who are responsible to benefit their fellow servants by their use of their church position.

Fortunately, the exercise of stewardship is not limited to those with specific church positions any more than it is limited to those with great wealth. Peter speaks of all believers acting as stewards of the gifts God has given them.

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (I Peter 4:10-11 ESV)

You are a manager in God’s household

So, you are definitely a steward since you can minister to other people through words or deeds. The church is a body with different parts, and we must make our unique contributions for the common good. (1 Cor. 12). We should see ourselves as administering our gifts and abilities as well as our possessions and positions of influence.

What does this look like in practice?  Answers will vary. Most of you have some money to give. You have some knowledge to share with others. Perhaps you can write an article or put extra thought into leading a Bible study or presenting a topic. Maybe you can introduce children in your community to the outdoors, or teach them to sing. Whether you serve on a school board or teach a child how to drive a nail, preparing the next generation is one of the big jobs for stewards.

Another big piece of stewardship is your daily work and daily roles. Parents and leaders of any sort are obvious examples. Are you helping your children, employees, or church members flourish by the way you do your job? Work that seems mundane is also stewardship. Building houses, changing diapers, pumping septic tanks, and processing financial transactions are indeed ways of doing good in the world.

Perhaps the biggest thing is how you approach life. You may or may not be able to sit down and figure out exactly what God has entrusted you with. However, if you cultivate unselfishness and service, if you do your work well, both physically and intellectually, and if you proactively pursue the good of your communities, then you will be a good steward. The Master will commend you, and that sure beats getting cut in pieces!

[1] Indeed, a city treasurer could be called the oikonomos of the city (Romans 16:23).

[2] Traditionally rendered bishop. The term bishop has picked up many connotations that should not be read back into the New Testament. 

Following a Homeless Lord

Following a Homeless Lord

Anabaptist Perspectives, Guest Blogger

Dwight Gingrich is a former pastor and high school teacher who currently lives in Atlanta, Ga with his wife and three daughters where they are helping to establish a church plant. Dwight says that he is passionate about “exegesis and ecclesiology–that is, faithful interpretation of the Bible and good theological understandings and practices regarding the Church of Jesus Christ.” You can read more of Dwight’s writings and Scripture studies here.

(Thank you to Daughters of Promise magazine for granting us permission to reprint this article from their Winter 2017 issue.)


Since 1973, the year before I was born, the average living space per person in newly built United States homes has nearly doubled from 551 to 1,058 square feet.1 My adult experience distantly follows this same trend. As a single during college, I had personal space of maybe 375 square feet in the basement of my landlord’s home. Now (eighteen years, four dwellings, and four additional family members later) I am a first-time home owner of a house in Atlanta, Georgia, with 2,200 square feet plus an unfinished basement.

“But the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Luke 9:58).

Speaking of somewhere to lay your head, my bed size since moving to the U.S. in 2003 has also grown—from a single bed in the Bronx, to a full-sized sofa bed (newly-weds!), to several more full-sized beds, to, now, a luxurious queen-sized bed.

“But the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

Rich Mullins sang it well:

There were places You visited frequently
Took off Your shoes and scratched Your feet
‘Cause You knew that the whole world belonged to the meek
But You did not have a home…
Birds have nests, foxes have dens
But the hope of the whole world rests
On the shoulders of a homeless man. 2

What does it mean, in our McMansion world, to be followers of a homeless Lord?

We must begin by taking Jesus’ call to homelessness seriously. “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go,” an overconfident scribe assured Jesus (Matt. 8:19). Jesus’ response was a harsh reality check: Foxes have holes, and birds have roosts, but the One we profess to follow had no place to rest. Perhaps significantly, Luke says this conversation happened “along the road” (9:57). Matthew says it happened right before Jesus’ disciples “followed him” into a boat, where the travel-weary Jesus slept, tossed by a great storm (8:23-24).

Jesus, who lived during childhood with His parents in “their own town” of Nazareth (Luke 2:39), spent His adult ministry years as a travelling rabbi, never long in one place, always following His Father’s call. In Luke’s account, it was “after this” teaching about homelessness that Jesus sent out the seventy-two, instructing them to rely on others who would open their houses (Luke 10:1, 5-8). Anyone who wanted to follow Jesus had to travel with Him, leaving nets and tables and homes behind. Anyone who wants to follow Him today must likewise be willing to abandon home without hesitation.

Many of the first Christians voluntarily sold their houses, giving to those in need (Acts 4:34-35). More were driven from home against their will by persecution (Acts 8:1). Obedience to the two great commandments and the Great Commission will lead many Christians to pluck up roots and move where the Spirit blows. Do not imagine a homeless Messiah will never ask His followers to be homeless. Do not imagine you will know the joy of following if you cling tenaciously to your present—or your dream—square footage of personal living space. (And do not imagine, I suggest from experience, that the hassles of home ownership can compete with the joys of following Jesus.)

And yet, receive Jesus’ statement about homelessness as a proverb, not a law. Receive it as a candle exposing the loyalties of your heart, not a cookie-cutter to enforce conformity. No spiritual law lets you mechanically measure the discipleship of anyone, yourself included, simply by calculating the square footage of a house, large or small.

Like the wisdom literature of the Old Testament and the rabbis of His day, Jesus used stark images, black-and-white contrasts, and hyperbole. When He told us to gouge out our eye if it causes us to stumble (Matt. 5:29), His exaggerated demand was a command commonly used by teachers of His day. Jesus aimed to expose hearts and stir minds, inviting listeners to solve moral riddles by a heart renovation of repentance. Applying Jesus’ teaching requires an exegesis of not only His words, but also our lives and cultures, so we can rightly apply the right words for the right circumstances.

Jesus said you cannot be His disciple unless you “hate” your own family (Luke 14:26), yet one of His last acts was to ensure His mother had a “son” to care for her (John 19:26-27). He said you should “give to everyone who begs from you” (Luke 6:30), yet He rebuked the crowd who wanted to crown Him king so they could always eat His miraculous provision of food (John 6:15, 26-27). And Jesus’ call to homelessness came, according to Matthew, right after He had been hosted in “Peter’s house” (8:14-17)!

This leads to my final point: if you have a home, use it as a place to host Jesus and those He loves. Peter, who had reportedly “left everything” to follow Jesus (Mark 10:28), had not, apparently, actually sold his house. Some scholars speculate it became a base for Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, being perhaps the “home” that Jesus is said to have had in Capernaum (Mark 1:29-34; 2:1, 15; 3:20; etc.). Something similar happened with the rich tax collector Levi. “Leaving everything, he rose and followed” Jesus. After that statement, the next sentence may surprise us: “And Levi made [Jesus] a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them” (Luke 5:28-29). Notice the pattern: following Jesus does not always mean selling one’s house, but it does mean devoting our resources entirely and lavishly to His service.

Here is the call to one of the most difficult and underrated of Christian virtues: hospitality. Hospitality was so central to the early church that if you would have asked anyone for directions to the local church, they would have pointed you to someone’s home. Hosting God’s household is a wonderful reversal of God’s charge against Israel: “My house… lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house” (Hag. 1:9). Jesus said that when we serve those who belong to Him, we serve Jesus Himself (Matt. 10:40-42; 18:5). What an opportunity!

As we can, our hospitality should extend beyond the family of God to people such as international students and the homeless living in our own neighborhoods—both adventures that we have tasted here in Atlanta. Despite our ballooning houses, over 500,000 homeless live in the U.S., nearly a third of those without shelter.3 As Shane Claiborne likes to ask, “How can we worship a homeless man on Sunday and ignore one on Monday?”4 Practically speaking, such hospitality will indeed mean we lose personal space, whether through selling or sharing.

This, then, is what it means to follow our homeless Lord. If the Son of Man, the One Who fully shares the glory and kingdom of the Ancient of Days (Dan. 7:13-14), willingly left home to serve His Father, how can we do less? If He wants to renovate the loyalties of our heart, who are we to cling to our square footage of home? And if the Son of Man needs somewhere to lay His head, how can we resist the honor of hosting Him?




Guest Blog: Schools as a Common Good

Guest Blog: Schools as a Common Good

Guest Blogger

Delmar Oberholtzer and Ryan Yoder are board members of Anascholastic Institute . An organization which is dedicated to furthering education and scholarly thought within Anabaptist communities. Delmar is a high school teacher who loves school so much he never left. He has taught in both public and private schools across Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.  Ryan is a missionary under DestiNations International and lives with his wife and two children in Spain. He has studied Arabic institutionally, Spanish independently, and is currently taking online classes with Liberty University.


The United States Census Bureau recently released the data it collected on public schools for the 2016 year, including the amount of money spent. The data indicates that the public school systems are spending an average of $11,762 per student in their care.1 Private schools generally operate on a smaller budget, but their per pupil expenditures still run into the thousands of dollars.

These types of numbers naturally lead to some common questions. How do we justify such expenses? Are our schools worth the significant amount of money we spend on them? What good is a school, really?

The most common answers to these questions often focus on the good a school provides for an individual student. A school teaches students how to work with people, build social skills, and helps them make friends. A school teaches skills that make students valuable workers, ensuring that each individual will be able to find a job or career. In Christian schools, a school also teaches a student about the truths of the Christian faith and encourages them to make that faith an integral part of their lives and worldview. These are all good answers, but they don’t complete the picture of a school’s value. A Christian school also provides benefits to its community, a value though often overlooked and hard to quantify, is real nonetheless.

A Tie that Binds

The first way in which a school serves the good of its community is through the social ties it creates and supports. A school is never sustained by the efforts of a single individual, it is always the result of a group of people who come together with a shared purpose. Those people include the staff, students, parents, churches, business partners, school board, alumni, financial supporters, and others that have an interest in the success of the school. As the school brings these people together it provides a common experience and a shared value that deepens the connectedness of the community. A school that actively engages its stakeholders can be a true asset by reinforcing a genuine sense of mutual care and camaraderie. In a society where people are becoming more socially isolated than ever before, any implement which brings people together in this way is of great value.

This is especially true for private Christian schools. Because there is no reliance on federal or state funding, all the support is generated by the local church or churches and the community that surrounds them. Likewise, almost all major decisions are made by local leaders and representatives. The church community collectively owns the school and is brought closer together through that shared ownership. While a church is more than just a social grouping, it is indubitably stronger when its members can come together in the type of fellowship and commonality that the support of a Christian school can provide.

A Source of Potential

Another way in which a school serves its community is through the preparation of “servants to the public” from one generation to the next. In a secular setting, this translates into the production of people who serve as anything from paramedics to sanitation workers. Schools make sure that there will always be people who are trained to keep their community safe and functioning.

A church is like a secular community in that it also needs a collection of people who support it through their service. Individual churches are structured in different ways, but they all need people who are willing to serve by preaching, singing, discipleship, performing administrative tasks, handling finances, teaching, and taking care of church property. Even a church that has all of these responsibilities covered should be preparing for the day when the tasks need to be passed on to a new generation.

A school provides the church with a place to identify and prepare individuals who possess the gifts for those positions of service. It is common for schools to encourage the development of gifts such as speech, creativity, and written expression, then display them before the community in the form of special programs or performances. These activities keep the community informed of the potential that exists among its young people and helps them identify those who might best serve the community in a variety of ways.

A Bastion of Values

Finally, and possibly most important, a school provides the church with a point of reference for, and transmission of, shared values and culture. Because a school is generally under the power of the local community as mentioned above, it becomes a reflection of the community’s values and beliefs. Making decisions about the school can force a church to truly evaluate what it believes and how it should be practiced and communicated. Whatever is truly believed by the church will find its way into the school, either in daily operations or in the content that is taught. A school with a healthy relationship with a church community can become an expression of the church, a public example of how its faith can be lived out and practiced.

Not only does the school reflect the church community’s values, it transmits them to the students under its care. The school sets an example and encourages patterns of behavior that have the potential to last a lifetime.  In one sense, a school can serve as a conduit from the church to the students that attend the school, teaching the basic tenets of faith as well as how to apply the Christian faith to daily life and action.

A school that serves a distinct culture will pass on cultural practices and traditions as well as the truths and beliefs of the church. There have always been Anabaptist groups who place a great deal of value in their distinct heritage, whether it has been expressed through clothing, language, holidays, foods, or music. For those who value their cultural background, a school can support efforts to pass on that identity to their children. In these ways the school becomes a tool for the preservation of the beliefs and culture of a church community and promotes its continuation from generation to generation.

What Good is a School?

In an age where schools broadcast their test scores, brag about their graduate employment rates, and celebrate their most successful students, it is important to not lose sight of the larger value of a school. The work it does on behalf of each student in its care is of utmost importance, but a good school can and should be honored for the significant good it can do for the community it serves. So what good is a school? It seems safe to say that the benefit of Christian schools, while significant to each student, also extends to the church, community, and ultimately to the Kingdom of God. 




Guest Blog: The Geography of Loneliness

Guest Blog: The Geography of Loneliness

Guest Blogger

Henry Moody lives at the Danthonia Bruderhof in the wide-open, sun-soaked spaces of the Northern Tablelands region of NSW, Australia where he is a school teacher. He is married to Dori and they have four children. On her mother’s side, Dori has her roots in the Hutterite Anabaptist heritage and blogs at www.Bruderhof.com.


Across the sparrows and slates of the rooftops of London, the Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral heard the great bells naming him where he lay in pain and doubt, wrestling with his God. High over the town, the swinging mouth and heavy iron tongue of the Death Knell measured out his days as the dread voice spoke relentlessly into his soul. It reached out like the finger of the Almighty, plucking him from the world of men, a summons to abandon all comfort and joy, take up his sins and stand alone before the Judge.

The funeral bells rang out often over London in 1623 as the Great Plague ran amok through the town. Consequently, when the terrible fevers struck, and the discolored lesions bloomed on his skin, John Donne despaired. The literary genius, ladies’ man, and writer of risqué verse turned ordained minister lay nailed to a bed of pain, suffering, he suspected, the torments of the damned in the hands of a jealous God. And so, when the voices of the bells came in at the open window, they could only be calling him.

Shortly afterwards, however, a tragic procession passed by on the street below, and his mistake became clear: the tolling of the bell was for another man. In time his illness, most likely typhus and not the plague, passed and Donne lived. Yet the moment left him deeply changed. What of the dead manso utterly alone, cut off forever from the affairs of the living, from the small joys and sorrows of the day and those deep ties of warmth and fellowship that run through all mankind? Unable for a time to read or talk, Donne let his pen speak for him in some of the most powerful words ever uttered in the English language. “No man,” he wrote, “is an Iland, intire of itselfe…”1 

“Ah, look at all the lonely people. Where do they all come from?” wondered the Beatles in 1966. Good question. These days we no longer fear the Black Death. Another pestilence, a quiet and desperate sense of alienation, has infected our relationships. Troubling reports of an escalating “loneliness epidemic” have initiated a widespread public conversation. As researchers compile a mountain of evidence, a few disquieting statistics suffice to ink in the shadowy outlines of a silent, invisible scourge: 15-30% of the general U.S. population (including 40% of Americans over 45) experience chronic loneliness.2 Surveys show that over 9 million people in the U.K. “often or always” feel lonely. Worse still, a heartbreaking 200,000 elderly Britons cannot report a single conversation with their family or a friend in over a month.3 Things are so bad the government recently appointed a cabinet level “minister for loneliness” to focus on the issue.4   

Loneliness is the great leveler, breaching even the most exclusive echelons of power, rank, and privilege through the fatal flaw of our common humanity. Everyone, at some time, has looked up and encountered its silent stare. Its pain belongs to the human race: the sorrow of the grief-stricken at the graveside left to carry on alone, the ceaseless heartache of the abandoned and betrayed, the bewildered hurt of the elderly shelved in the flickering light of the talk shows, the thousand tiny wounds of the ignored and overlooked, the midnight place of the suicide whose silent scream of pain gives up God’s breath of life into the void.  

“There are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally,”5 wrote G.K. Chesterton, stabbing his broad finger directly down on the sore spot. At its root, the opposite of alienation is far more than mere hilarity, merrymaking, and high times. Misery may lurk at the very center of the crowd, surrounded by the din and blare that keep the black dog at bay. Who can understand the human heart? The waters of the soul run deep. We are born with a yearning for a kindred spirit—someone to confide in and reveal the depths and measureless currents of our inmost longing. Even the Messiah, united with his brothers as with his Father, must have hungered for this special closeness with the apostle John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”6

The American poet Emily Dickinson writes of selecting her soul’s society from an “ample nation” with the delight of a child agonizing over a box of chocolates. Left outside are emperors kneeling on the mat and chariots idling at the gate—all the pomp and circumstance of high society the world has to offer leave her unmoved as stone frozen in the plumbing. Both genius and recluse, Dickinson knew all about isolation. What nameless anguish lay at the root of her self-imposed exile remains a mystery—she simply referred to it as “terror.” At times her pint-sized poems bleed loneliness and hurt onto the page. And so, perhaps taught by the familiar ache of its absence, she knew the value of a kindred spirit best:

There is a solitude of space
A solitude of sea
A solitude of death, but these
Society shall be
Compared with that profounder site
That polar privacy
A soul admitted to itself —
Finite Infinity. 7

The empty, dusty, echoing years between the stars, the blue eternity of the deep beyond the final headland, the valley of shadows that all must walk alone–these are the very crossroads of all human love, fellowship, and warmth beside that other place. Here the soul, this slight breath of God’s infinite Spirit which blows where it will, is turned inward to feed on itself, imprisoned and locked in the eternal ice of never ending winter.

Many well intended solutions attempt to cure such human tragedy with the equivalent of get-well cards, smiley stickers, warm fuzzy robots featuring outsized sympathetic eyes to comfort the elderly, bear-hugging armchairs, restaurants that provide life-sized plush toys to sit opposite solitary diners, even phone holding Ramen bowls that provide consolation with a cheery, nature-themed anti-loneliness app as you cry into your noodles. Obviously, any attempts to heal deep wounds at the surface level are bound for failure. But the Good Lord, as we know, loves to set things upside down and back to front.

Chesterton once defined love as the “loneliness of God”8–a loneliness which became a love so great that it took from the Creator of the worlds his only son and nailed him to a cross as the Redeemer and brother of all mankind. Perhaps the current epidemic is a manifestation of a sort of Narnian winter that has come over society—a distance and chilliness that sets in when love, as prophesied, cools and ebbs away. In some strange and simple way, love will solve everything, turning our loneliness into the loneliness of God, not the human despair that drives us deeper into wintry isolation, but in the direction of a fellow man.

For winter implies spring already on its way. It arrives with the first robin splashing down in the snow like the grace of God. A few days of sunshine soften and melt an entire winter’s load of ice. The first drip begins the break-up. There is a tilting of all things, and the earth turns its face towards the sun.

Like the prophet Jonah—alone in the deep, seaweed in his hair, barred in forever at the roots of the mountains—John Donne knew what it meant to be brought up from the pit. His powerful Meditation XVII holds up a mirror to God’s breathtaking love and makes it his own, a love so great that every border between men ceases to exist:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself;
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main;
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind;
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.9

If we share in every man’s death, we also share in his rebirth. The funeral knell gives way to the jubilant bells of Easter morning pealing the Resurrection in unearthly adoration. In his time, Christ, the lonely God, will find each one of his lonely people and every tear will be dried.



Guest Blog: Poverty and Wealth

Guest Blog: Poverty and Wealth

Guest Blogger

Dorcas Smucker is a pastor’s wife and mother of six. She and her family live near Harrisburg, Oregon in a house that’s been in the Smucker family for over 100 years. Dorcas has been writing a monthly column called “Letter from Harrisburg” for the Eugene Register-Guard for 17 years, and these columns have been compiled into seven different books. Find more of her writings on her blog, Life in the Shoe.


“We shouldn’t be this wealthy,” I thought.

I was sitting in Halsey Mennonite Church gymnasium with 450 other Oregon Anabaptists, listening to reports about the astonishingly varied and vast work of Christian Aid Ministries and its new satellite program, CAM-West. Medicines, hygiene kits, food boxes, clothing, wells, blankets—the list seemed endless and included, of course, reports of the large financial donations that make these projects possible. There were a lot of deep pockets in that room. Everyone seemed to be listening intently and—I assumed—evaluating whether this cause was worthy of a financial gift, and if so, how much it should be.

For the most part, Anabaptists in Oregon are financially successful. Many families own their own homes and, often, farms and rental houses besides. Mennonite-owned businesses—most of them related to agriculture—abound and thrive. They are also generous. Fundraisers for Gospel Echoes Northwest or a medical emergency are well-attended and raise many thousands of dollars. According to the prevailing theories of poverty and wealth found in financial articles such as The Atlantic, and in books such as Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed, we should not be doing this wealthy. What is it about Anabaptists that turns the American economic charts upside down?

For one thing, we are primarily rural; rural America is declining in opportunity and struggling to survive. Also, probably less than half of the conservative Anabaptist adults in Oregon have finished high school, and all the experts agree that lack of a high school diploma is a key precursor of poverty. Yet, Mennonites are able to support their families and fund CAM-West, as well as many causes and charities besides. Why has this community turned the economic tables upside down? Here are some likely factors:

 1. While not nearly as long-established as Lancaster County or Holmes County, the Willamette Valley Mennonite community is over 100 years old. The first Mennonite settlers bought farmland that is, in many cases, still in the family. Farming expertise and equipment were also handed down from one generation to the next.

2. Mennonites have been quick to recognize opportunity. They were among the first to recognize the suitability of this climate for growing grass seed. Frank Kropf, one of the patriarchs, was the first to import a hardier perennial ryegrass from New Zealand. When a harsh winter killed the other ryegrasses, his seed stock became the standard. Frank and his sons invented machinery to harvest grass seed, and many Mennonite farmers established their own seed cleaning businesses. Later, when burning the straw off the fields was outlawed, Mennonites were among the first to bale the straw and ship it overseas, which led to employment opportunities in baling crews, hay presses, and trucking.

3. An old-fashioned work ethic has prevailed. From teenage girls putting in 12-hour days driving combines during harvest, to men who manage large acreages and pastor a church besides, hard work is expected and honored. Being willing to work hard and learn as you go is considered of more value than formal education.

4. Traditionally, practicality was encouraged and foolishness was not. Money was re-invested in farms and equipment rather than in ostentatious houses, travel, or possessions. This factor is gradually changing with young people buying lattes and new pickup trucks. But much of the underlying tradition remains.

5. Connection is important. Nepotism, some would call it. Fathers hire their sons, nephews, and their friends. If you can prove a connection to a potential employer, he is likely to trust and hire you. This means that any local young person with a desire to work can get a job and, if he or she does well, work their way to a better position.

6. Anabaptists recognize that money is not the only, or even the most important, type of wealth. Perhaps it was the isolation of the early settlers, and the vast distance from communities in the East, that made them recognize that people are of enormous value, and they created large families and tightly-knit communities. Today, we still tend to have lots of children, live close together, and show up by the hundreds for weddings and funerals. Spiritual resources are also of more value than money, exemplified by church attendance and lifestyle choices such as taking Sunday off, even when the weather is perfect for harvesting ryegrass. Both of these would no doubt seem, to a secular economist, like a drain on finances. Paradoxically, both have led to an increase in financial wealth.

7. In another seeming paradox, generosity has not depleted financial resources. Tithing is encouraged, and many give above 10%, funding church programs, schools, prison ministries, CAM-West, and much more.

Ultimately, of course, wealth and poverty defy simple explanations, and all that we have is a gift from God. It is His choice to bless or withhold. Living by Christian principles and valuing people, wisdom and the Gospel over money can lead to resources that secular economists will never understand or quantify.