Early rejections of slavery…

If you know me (really really know me), you’d know I tend towards cynicism with the church in general, because so often we have lost our way and done (and continue to do) some really twisted things that makes criticism and charges of hypocrisy completely legitimate. But I harbor small strands of hope that find examples of a compelling and different lifestyle from time to time, and it helps to share them.

This specific example comes from a fellow well known in Church of the Brethren circles named John Kline. This man was a powerful example of Christian discipleship whose life was lived amidst the struggles of moral ambiguity in slavery and the Civil War. Kline maintained that slavery was wholly immoral and gave his life equally for slaves and the white folk who owned them, while also rejecting the enormous pressure exerted by both the Unionists and Confederates during the Civil War to join ranks with either side. He lived in Broadway and was shaped profoundly by Linville Creek Church there to live a life of radical love and discipleship; when you consider the lives of folks who emerged as leaders from there (M.R. Zigler and others), the place was a seedbed in the 19th and early 20th centuries for revolutionary commitment to Christ.

The quote I’m about to write becomes even more deeply meaningful when the reality that John Kline was murdered by a Confederate hit squad becomes apparent. I found this quote in a history book;

It may be that the sin of holding three millions of human beings under the galling yoke of involuntary servitude has, like the bondage of Israel in Egypt, sent a cry to heaven for Vengeance, a cry that has now reached the ear of God. I bow my head in prayer…secession means war, and war means tears and ashes and blood. It means bonds and imprisonments and perhaps even death to many in our Brotherhood (Brethren church), who I have the confidence to believe will die rather than disobey God by taking arms.
– John Kline 1861

It’s encouraging to me to find lives like Kline’s. He knew slavery was a moral outrage, but that violent means to resolve that outrage was not consistent with a lifestyle of following Jesus. He was a product of a community in the Old German Baptist Brethren that drafted a statement in 1797 that “It was considered good, and also concluded unanimously, that no brother or sister should have negroes as slaves; and in case a brother or sister had such, he or she was to set them free.” Not only that, but the full proclamation was made in 1835 that African-Americans should be fully included in church membership if they so desired; as equals!

These sorts of actions were wildly unpopular and caused these folks to be boycotted and harassed by their fellow citizens, but they stood their ground and exemplified in word and deed a lifestyle radically different than those around them; including other Christians who justified holding other human beings as property. Examples like this should help us understand people like Stanley Hauerwas, who said,

“Christianity is not beliefs about God plus behavior. We are Christians not because of what we believe, but because we have been called to be disciples of Jesus. To become a disciple is not a matter of a new or changed self-understanding, but rather to become part of a different community with a different set of practices.

That quote, from a superb, convicting article called “Discipleship as Craft, Church as Disciplined Community,” illustrates that the communities we are a part of have the power to deeply shape our lifestyles, and if we are to claim to be Christians, we have two levels of submission to go through before we assert our individuality; the first, to Christ as Lord (which fundamentally dethrones any other who would claim to be Lord), and the second, to the church as the community Jesus set up. After that, and only after that, can we recognize our individual contribution as members living in submission. And even in that, we submit to those who have walked the path of discipleship longer than we, committing to sit, listen, and learn from them before we dare to even open our mouths and suggest we know a thing. This is unpopular, and it gets tricky when and if one’s primary community loses its foundation as a disciplined community of followers of Jesus, but we should err on the side of community rather than individuality.

Five Questions your Pacifist Friends are Tired of Answering

My title is the title of a good article by a fellow named Jonathan Fitzgerald at the Burnside Writer’s Collective (BWC). The BWC is a solid site started by Donald Miller (author of Blue Like Jazz) and a few of his friends that deals with social justice, sports, general rants or thoughts, and other things. The reason I like the site is because they identify themselves as “an online magazine presenting an alternative to franchise faith.” In other words, they’re not afraid of disagreeing with some “Christian” perspectives on issues that are in fact twisted and not reflective of what Jesus cared deeply about.

And so, knowing this reality, Fitzgerald explores an area (pacifism) that is often marginalized in the church (some call it the ultimate and vilest form of immorality), with five subpoints of questions he’s often asked as a pacifist:

1) What if your (insert loved one here) was attacked?
2) What about the Old Testament?
3) Didn’t Jesus mean to live non-violently in our personal lives, but not corporately
4) What about Romans 13?
5) So, you’re suggesting Christians sit back and do nothing?

Now, I don’t always toe the same line as Fitzgerald, and I don’t mind talking about these questions (I’m, in fact, deeply passionate about talking about them), but as a pacifist I often grow tired of people hauling out these questions as trump cards that trivialize and pass over central issues that drive those of us who believe Jesus called all of his followers to nonviolence.

Here’s the link to the article.

p.s. I disagree with the picture I posted above. Just posted it for the sake of kickstarting the discussion.

Prez Swartzendruber part Deux: or, "you Mennonites are among the few in the whole country making sense right now"


As promised, here is the second part of EMU President Loren Swartzendruber’s excellent article. And in case as you read this you’re tempted to click away because Swartzendruber’s context (Mennonites) is different than yours, I think he’s making some serious points about cultural nonconformity for the sake of Christ that can be applied to all Christian traditions. It’s not as if the “historic peace churches” are the only ones given the command to be peacemakers; or Lutherans are the only ones to emphasize justification at God’s initiative, to be seized by faith; or Methodists are the only ones who should pursue sanctification. Denominational distinctives are not meant to be exclusive, and thus Swartzendruber’s words (though spoken within a distinctive context) are deeply prophetic to all Christians. What is our witness in our different cultural realities?

And I’ll put in a pre-emptive p.s. for you here. I’m not Mennonite…I do consider myself deeply influenced by Anabaptism, but I’m not just toeing denominational lines here by quoting Loren. He’s got something to say to all of us. And so he continues;

“My observation is that many of us who grew up Mennonite have struggled to come to peace with our past experiences. We remember the days when we were, in fact, very different culturally. It was embarrassing to stand out in the crowd. It is so much easier psychologically to ‘fit in’ with the multitude. And, now, particularly in the U.S. context, we fear the possibility of being ostracized by our neighbors if we dare to challenge prevailing assumptions.

What does this have to do with EMU and Mennonite education? I’ve devoted most of my adult life to this mission for one simple reason: I believe Mennonite Anabaptists have had (and still have) a unique theological perspective- and practice- that is needed in our world. I am disappointed with the headlong rush to “be like everyone else” as though our theological forebears were badly mistaken. Frankly, I think the burden of proof is on those who have embraced the majority culture. Again, the New Testament hardly promises that the followers of Jesus will enjoy majority status.

I’ve frequently said that I am ‘proud’ to be a Mennonite, though I always add with a smile, ‘I’m proud in a humble sort of way.’ That’s not because I value being Mennonite above being a follower of Christ. I do believe, however, that it’s not possible to be a generic Christian. We are all part of theological streams with historical wellsprings, whether we are charismatic, Pentecostal, Lutheran, or Anabaptist- and whether we realize it or not.

If EMU and our sister Mennonite schools and colleges are not unique and thoroughly committed to being Anabaptists as followers of Jesus, there is little reason for them- for us at EMU- to exist. There are hundreds of good, academically strong institutions that do a great job of educating young adults.

I am astounded at the number of parents around the church who aren’t aware of this simple fact: We’re different from other colleges. Even other educational and denominational leaders recognize we represent something unique. One university president from South Dakota, himself a Baptist, told me recently, ‘You Mennonites are among the few in the whole country who are making any sense right now.’

Jennifer Jag Jivan, a member of the Church of Pakistan (a merger of four Protestant denominations) and a recent MA graduate, described the difference this way in a recent letter:

I feel richly blessed that my life crossed the Mennonites. Like all people, of course, they experience their ups and downs, church conflicts, and others, but they are a people whose commitment to walk in the love of God in humility renews one’s spirit in the goodness of humanity. My deep appreciation for all the Mennonites, whether meeting them in the cafeteria, bookstore, or classroom- their culture of helping others and meeting others where they are, and spreading this culture of love and peace- is breath-taking indeed! But what is more, this environment is so catching that it enables others to embrace this spirit and be the miracle of this love-sharing life. This is unique and very special to EMU.’

These statements are not reasons to become prideful, but they do show that others see something distinctive, a difference worth preserving. It may seem strange for a university president to say that he doesn’t really care is his institution exists in the year 2006, 20 years from now. And I don’t, not for the sake of the university itself. But, I do care, with all my heart and soul, that the church’s witness is strong in the year 2026. I’m convinced it will only be so if a substantial number of our youth receive a Mennonite education.

To those who have stuck with me to this point in my ‘sermon’ and who are surprised at my audacity and passion, I made a similar speech to the EMU Parents’ Council one morning last spring. I made it totally off the cuff, after I had forgotten I was to join them, and then I apologized for my passion. I reflected that perhaps I’m getting old, and that I no longer feel as if I have much to lose. They were slightly stunned, I think, and then said, ‘Put it in writing. You’re preaching to the choir.’

My life would be blessed if the ‘choir’ would carry the message and deliver their young adults in large numbers to EMU and all of our Mennonite schools- and most blessed when those graduates have become the faithful members and leaders of the church tomorrow.

To those from other theological traditions reading this, I am grateful for your recognition of and appreciation for EMU’s unique role in this world. I am grateful, too, for the insights you bring to us and to this role.”

Ok, ok, these are radically different, but…

First things first, click on the following link here to see one of Peyton Manning’s skits from hosting SNL: hilarious at times, over the line others, but all in all it’ll get a chuckle out of you. Here’s the link.

Second, I’m going to post a great article in two parts (with the first part here) written by the President of Eastern Mennonite University where I’m going to seminary. It’s a tremendous article, perceptive as well as in-your-face. Among other things, a college president having the brass ones to say that he doesn’t care if the institution of EMU exists 20 years from now should grab a little of your attention (maybe the industry of cancer research that often seeks to treat symptoms rather than angle in on the cure for the sake of the perpetuation of the industry could take a lesson here).

President Loren Swartzendruber asks: “Liberal or Conservative?”

“‘Are you a conservative or a liberal?’ This appears to be a simple, straightforward question, yet my answer is never simple. It is: ‘I don’t know. I am both, and I am neither. It depends on the issue. It depends on the person or group to which I’m being compared.

I’m a pacifist because that’s how I understand the meaning of following Jesus, but that is a very liberal position to some of my friends. I support certain lifestyles and am disheartened by other lifestyles- ones which I believe EMU should actively discourage- so some call me and EMU conservative. If you really want to know what I believe, you’d be safe to read the “Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective” (link here). Not that I agree with every last detail, but I do trust the discernment process of my church body. When I was baptized I committed myself to this: to follow Jesus and to ‘give and receive counsel.’

I was surprised when EMU was lauded in a 2006 college guide book, All-American Colleges: Top Schools for Conservatives, Old-Fashioned Liberals, and People of Faith. Many, though not all, of the other 49 colleges in the guide book are ‘conservative’ in that they have a direct connection to orthodox conservative causes, such as educating and preparing students to serve in the U.S. military. Yet the profile on EMU is largely accurate.

The title of the guide underscores the dilemma that an institution like EMU faces in explaining itself to prospective student, donors, church people, and community members. How do we define ourselves within a cultural context that wants to reduce complex realities to simplistic cliches? Sometimes I receive calls from community folks who seem to know exactly how a Mennonite institution should conduct itself. These calls bemuse me since those of us committed to this expression of the church rarely possess such certainty, despite our heartfelt prayers for guidance.

Since my ordination in 1975, I have preached in more than 230 congregations, most Mennonite, but some other traditions. Frequently I have engaged folks in Christian education conversations and interacted with members and leaders over a meal. Though I am optimistic by nature, I have detected a trend that concerns me: I am troubled by the loss of identity among many who call themselves Anabaptist.

I am not referring to such simplistic identity labels as conservative and liberal. Do these really matter? I meet church members who eagerly embrace one in opposition to the other, as though it is really possible to be consistent across the spectrum, whether theologically or politically. As one of my Anabaptist mentors used to say rather frequently, ‘On some issues I am rather liberal…because I take the Bible very seriously. Which is a conservative position.’

I have a deep concern that Anabaptist Mennonites have been derailed theologically by the influence of so-called Christian radio and TV. I grieve that we are increasingly unable to stand up for the Jesus of the New Testament who called us to another way. We are also subject to liberal theology that downplays the significance of Jesus’ invitation to salvation.

The problem with drinking from other theological wells is that we are subtly lulled into thinking that all Christians share similar perspectives. Yet all do not read the Bible the same way. Many believers have a ‘flat book’ view of the Scriptures. The logical result is that Old Testament perspectives are put on the same level as the New Testament. Jesus himself demonstrated a different approach: ‘You have heard it has been said…but I say…’

My Anabaptist theological ancestors interpreted the Old Testament through the eyes of Jesus and through the lens of unfolding revelation in the New Testament. Unfortunately, that’s a perspective not heard from most speakers in the popular Christian media. Either my Anabaptist forebears were deluded, or they were right. I’m throwing my lot with them. They believed the example and words of Jesus must be our guide, and so do I.

What practical differences does this make? Some years ago I was guest preacher for several days just prior to a U.S. presidential election. One individual told me, in all seriousness, that she would not vote for a particular candidate because he ‘ would take away all our Bibles.’ The same person appeared surprised when I responded that Jimmy Carter may well have been the most ‘Christian’ president of my lifetime. At least he attended church regularly, openly confessed his faith, and has been a life-long Sunday school teacher.

I wish I could report that her concerns were unusual. I’ve heard the wild-claims of what might happen ‘if so-and-so were elected’ all too often. Never mind that I doubt any U.S. political leader would denigrate the Bible, I have to ask the obvious question from a New Testament perspective: ‘What difference would that make?’ I’ve always understood that the strength of the church, and the faith-based stances of its believers, are not subject to the ‘state.’

What kind of faith is demonstrated if we insist on being legitimized by government? Our friends in Ethiopia saw people flock to the church during a time of prolonged persecution. They didn’t need governmental support for the church to flourish, even as they would certainly appreciate, as we do, the freedom to worship in peace.”

A personal intellectual hero…


Richard Hays is an awesome, awesome guy. A quotation I love from his thought:

“One reason that the world finds the NT’s message of peacemaking and love of enemies incredible is that the church is so massively faithless. On the question of violence, the church is deeply compromised and committed to nationalism, violence, and idolatry. This indictment applies alike to liberation theologies that justify violence against oppressors and to establishment Christianity that continues to play chaplain to the military-industrial complex, citing just war theory and advocating the defense of a particular nation as though that were somehow a Christian value. Only when the church renounces the way of violence will people see what the Gospel means, because then they will see the way of Jesus reenacted in the church.”[1]


[1] Hays The Moral Vision of the New Testament, 343.

Truth. Speaking. Is. Unpopular.


Excerpt from video below in this post, “One of the things that ‘s always perturbed me…as we come to celebrate the life and living of Martin Luther King Jr, one of the things we can say with alarm since the legalization of the holiday is that Dr King has been reduced to the syrupy sweet Hallmark Card where he is no longer prophetic and he no longer speaks to the nation and he no longer causes us to speak to the nation in ways that shake the foundation of this nation’s immorality…”

All my friends who are not Christfollowers do not need to listen to the following flash video. Feel free, but this message is mainly a convicting reminder that those of us who dare to claim that we are disciples of Jesus are expected to be peacemakers.

Peacemakers.

And that’s not peacemaking as defined by Nathan Myers, or Jane Doe, or whoever else. It’s peacemaking as defined by Jesus.

What was his example? What did his life scream to us about how to confront evil as a faithful disciple? How did his disciples live this out?

If you are a Christfollower, you and I don’t have a choice with whether we “want” to be a peacemakers or not. We don’t. Oh, we justify it…we say this and that….define peacemaking like this or that…in short, interpret peacemaking the way we do much of the Bible…seize onto the “For I know the plans I have for you” and “fearfully and wonderfully made” and “I call you my friends” passages while ignoring the “love your enemies” and “those who seek to protect their life will lose it” and “he was faithful to the point of the death, even death on a cross” and “for our battle is NOT against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities” passages because they challenge us too much.

As I watched this simple little flash from a simple speech, I was deeply convicted and tears welled up in my eyes as I thought about how often I shrink back from clear statements on truth when I’m around my fellow Christfollowers in church because I’m afraid they’ll leave or reject me or hate me for that position. My friends that don’t know Christ are begging to see me live like I love them and will give my life, my finances, my energy, and my prayers for them no matter what…they’re CRYING out! And I’m often a shuddering, emasculated Christian who’s ok with false unity in church in the name of comfort and “family” and all the easy Scripture; and I say I don’t, but I really DO want you to look like me, dress like me, like the same things I like, hate the same things I hate…or at least PRETEND you do so our relationship doesn’t challenge me. I’d rather not be called to take most of what I’ve learned in my life and unlearn it through pain and struggle and cyclical addictions to various things. I’d rather be comfortably numb in my self-centeredness, thank you very much.

But, MLK, for all his struggles, was a man who spoke truth…he would not let us sit in our seats and just nod along and afterwards say, “Good speech. Good delivery. Your voice intonation was tremendous.” *pat on the back* “See you next week, Marty.” Wouldn’t let us do it. He chose to say what he said and live like he did and give himself like he did. He knew his life was in danger, and he wasn’t afraid to confront the status quo and whoever stood to continue reaping the rewards from it. And for that, I am grateful. Because the status quo was and is continuing to rip us apart as humanity.

“Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies – or else? The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation…He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it. ” -MLK Jr.

I’m tired of cooperating. I’m tired of my smarmy proof-text-quoting-Scripture-life that exists because I’m not disciplined enough to grow beyond it and don’t have the stones to challenge my friends and church family and neighbors to take that step with me. But still I settle for recycling the same verses, saying the same prayers, and talking about the same issues I did a week ago…all the while, I’m spinning my tires and going nowhere! I’m TIRED of that life. I want MORE. There has to be MORE than where I am now. And we are now. And I don’t really care that the beginning of this video has a strong message about Bush. Watch it all the way through. Give it a fair shake. Sit back and think a little about what it means to follow Jesus the way he told us to…no matter what.

And challenge me. Forgive me. Let me rant like this from time to time. Help me to love more, give more, forgive more, expect more, pursue more.

And if I’m going to hold the leaders of the United States to a high standard of truth-telling as I am by endorsing this flash video, I sure as heck better be pursuing it myself, or I’m a flat hypocrite.

Click on play, lower left corner.
http://www.djpauledge.com/wewillnotbesilenced/#

ht on video: Ariah

God’s People Reconciling (Part 4 of 4)


Here’s part 4 of Ron Sider’s address to the 1984 Mennonite World Conference, and the one I believe is the most powerful part of his speech.

This section directly confronts the “passivism” that has replaced Jesus’ expectation of non-violent peacemaking for his people. Sider rejects gutless Christianity here, recognizing it for the cancer it is. I’d add (though the issue, I’m sure, is more complex than this) that I believe the spiritualization of Christianity (divorcing belief from necessary action) is part of the reason why there are declining numbers of men darkening the doors of churches along with a companion exaltation of military “heroes.” I’m more and more convinced an essential part of manhood is wanting something you believe in enough that you’d be willing to die for (and the flipside of living all-out for whatever that might be). If the message of Christianity is essentially what we receive from God (forgiveness, heaven, etc) and not what we can give to him (the whole of our lives), pretty soon we’ve got a gutted belief system on our hands. Knowing that the military is very nearly the only vocation in which men and women are putting their lives on a line for an ideology very naturally leads many to respect that. They believe in America, so they give their lives for it (and are willing to slaughter others to defend it). It’s a very Western way of thinking to think we can compartmentalize our lives and still be considered faithful, but God expects more from us.

If we are Christians, we should be willing to give our lives for it (and be willing to die to live for Christ). I think that’s where the rubber meets the road. Being willing to lay down one’s life for the sake of the kingdom shows we have rejected individualism’s claim on our lives (but I want to live my life to the fullest, marry, have kids, retire, and sip pina coladas till I die!), and are placing ourselves soundly in the community of Christ-followers over the centuries (and millenia).

Lead on, Ron:

Living models impact history. Even small groups of people practicing what they preach, laying down their lives for what they believe, influence society all out of proportion to their numbers. I believe the Lord of history wants to use the small family of Anabaptists scattered across the globe to help shape history in the next two decades. Back to Top

Die By The Thousands

But to do that, we must not only abandon mistaken ideas and embrace the full biblical conception of shalom. One more thing is needed. We must take up our cross and follow Jesus to Golgotha. We must be prepared to die by the thousands.

Those who have believed in peace through the sword have not hesitated to die. Proudly, courageously, they gave their lives. Again and again, they sacrificed bright futures to the tragic illusion that one more righteous crusade would bring peace in their time. For their loved ones, for justice, and for peace, they have laid down their lives by the millions.

Why do we pacifists think that our way — Jesus’ way — to peace will be less costly? Unless we Mennonites and Brethren in Christ are ready to start to die by the thousands in dramatic vigorous new exploits for peace and justice, we should sadly confess that we really never meant what we said. We did, of course, in earlier times. In previous centuries, we died for our convictions. But today we have grown soft and comfortable. We cling to our affluence and our respectability.

Unless comfortable North American and European Mennonites and Brethren in Christ are prepared to risk injury and death in nonviolent opposition to the injustice our societies foster and assist in Central America, the Philippines, and South Africa, we dare never whisper another word about pacifism to our sisters and brothers in those desperate lands. Unless we are ready to die developing new nonviolent attempts to reduce international conflict, we should confess that we never really meant the cross was an alternative to the sword. Unless the majority of our people in nuclear nations are ready as congregations to risk social disapproval and government harassment in a clear ringing call to live without nuclear weapons, we should sadly acknowledge that we have betrayed our peacemaking heritage. Making peace is as costly as waging war. Unless we are prepared to pay the cost of peacemaking, we have no right to claim the label or preach the message.

Our world is at an impasse. The way of violence has led us to the brink of global annihilation. Desperately, our contemporaries look for alternatives. But they will never find Jesus’ way to peace credible unless those of us who have proudly preached it are willing to die for it.

Last spring I attended a large evangelical conference on the nuclear question. I shared my Anabaptist convictions and called for Christian nonviolent peacekeeping forces to move into areas of conflict such as the Nicaragua-Honduras border. A former chief of the U.S. Air Force who was there told me that he was ready to join in that kind of alternative. As we talked I realized he was so terrified by the current impasse of nuclear terror that he was ready to explore every nonviolent alternative for resolving international conflict.

A number of us Mennonites are part of the Witness for Peace which now has a small nonviolent task force permanently located on the Nicaragua-Honduras border. To be sure, those few dozen Christians can offer only symbolic opposition to the weapons of war that flow both ways across that border. But think of what a few thousand could do! What would happen if the

Christian church stationed as many praying Christians as the U.S. government has sent armed guerrillas across that troubled border?

What would happen if we in the Christian church developed a new nonviolent peacekeeping force of 100,000 persons ready to move into violent conflicts and stand peacefully between warring parties in Central America, Northern Ireland, Poland, Southern Africa, the Middle East, and Afghanistan? Frequently we would get killed by the thousands. But everyone assumes that for the sake of peace it is moral and just for soldiers to get killed by the hundreds of thousands, even millions. Do we not have as much courage and faith as soldiers?

Again and again, I believe, praying, Spirit-filled, nonviolent peacekeeping forces would by God’s special grace, be able to end the violence and nurture justice. Again and again, we would discover that love for enemies is not utopian madness or destructive masochism but rather God’s alternative to the centuries of escalating violence that now threatens the entire planet. But the cross — death by the thousands by those who believe Jesus — is the only way to convince our violent world of the truth of Christ’s alternative.

I want to plead with the Mennonites. Brethren in Christ, and others in the Historic Peace Churches to take the lead in the search for new nonviolent approaches to conflict resolution. We could decide to spend 25 million dollars in the next three years developing a sophisticated, highly trained nonviolent peacekeeping force. The most sophisticated expertise in

diplomacy, history, international politics, and logistics would be essential. So would a radical dependence on the Holy Spirit. Such a peacekeeping task force of committed Christians would immerse every action in intercessory prayer. There would be prayer chains in all our congregations as a few thousand of our best youth walked into the face of death, inviting all parties to end the violence and work together for justice.

If as a body we started such a program, we could invite the rest of the Christian church to join us. In fact, as the Witness for Peace shows, other have already begun. If we are not careful, God will raise up others to live out the heritage we have feared to apply to the problems of our day. Together the Christian church could afford to train and deploy 100,000 persons in a new nonviolent peacekeeping force. The result would not be utopia, or even the abolition of war. But it might tug our trembling planet back from the abyss.

I have one final plea. I know we live in a vicious, violent world. I know it takes more than winning smiles and moral advice to enable sinners to love their enemies. Sinners will never be able to fully follow Jesus’ ethic. But they ought to. That they do not is the measure of their sinful rebellion. But regenerated Spirit-filled Christians can follow Jesus. Our only hope is a mighty peace revival that converts sinners and revives the church.

In the next decades, I believe we will see disaster and devastation on a scale never before realized in human history, unless God surprises our unbelieving world with a mighty worldwide peace revival. Therefore, my final plea is that we fall on our knees in intercessory prayer pleading with God for a global peace revival. At the worst of times in the past, God has broken into human history in mighty revivals that led to social movements that changed history. The Wesleyan revival in the eighteenth century resulted in Wilberforce’s great crusade against slavery that changed the British Empire. The same could happen in the next few decades. Pray that God revives millions of lukewarm Christians. Pray that God draws millions of non-Christians into a personal living relationship with the risen Lord. Pray that millions and millions of people in all the continents of our small planet come to see that Jesus is the way to peace and peace is the way of Jesus. Pray that with our eyes fixed on the crucified one, the church will dare to pay the cost of being God’s reconciling people in a broken world.

Today is the hour of decision. The long upward spiral of violence and counter violence today approaches its catastrophic culmination. Either the world repents and changes or it self-destructs.

For centuries we Anabaptists have believed there is a different way, a better way. Our world needs that alternative. Now. But the world will be able to listen to our words only if large numbers of us live out the words we speak. Our best sons and daughters, our leaders, and all our people must be ready to die. The cross comes before the resurrection.

There is finally only one question: Do we believe Jesus enough to pay the price of following him? Do you? Do I?