My wife and I just came back from a three day trip from Hershey, PA. We really enjoyed it and even though we didn’t really do anything that fancy or expensive, personally I don’t feel comfortable spending money on myself on luxuries.
The reason why would be a Scripture quoted in church this Sunday: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Mark 8:34).
My wife and I worshiped with Mennonites once before and we did it again on this trip. The service was what you would expect, though the air conditioning was nice. They had particularly good singing voices and in this church they counted the tithes and offerings during the worship service, not in front of everyone, but somewhere in the back. There were about five families and a total of $702 was tithed.
What was particularly striking was how Arminian they were. In Mark 8:34 the words “if anyone wishes” were emphasized to show that man has a choice in his salvation. The Deacon who taught said, “God helps mold the will of the believer so that he will choose Christ.” Further, it was taught that man must first believe and then follow up his belief with good works.
I believe that what they teach is that the believer is always under constant threat of losing their salvation.
The Deacon’s family was kind enough to invite my wife and I over for lunch, an invitation we accepted. They lived on a 180 acre farm, which was a serious business operation. There were many cute animals (such as pygmy goats and a llama) plus 180 head of cattle. The whole farm essentially fed the steer and it was cultivated by the head of the household with some help from his son. It did not appear they worked on Sundays, so all the work got done the other six days. They just finished a barley harvest on one field and planted beans with the help of synthetic fertilizers.
We sat down to eat and the meal was simple: boiled beef, rice with cheese, and green beans (that the wife just picked the day before). I asked the kids where they go to school and they went to a Mennonite/”River Brethren” school. All I can ascertain about “River Brethren” is that they looked more like Amish as it pertained to how they grew their hair, but they “drive cars.”
They were all very nice, the three kids seemed to like that they had company, as when they were excused from the dinner table they all opted to stay and hear me yarn on about my interpretations of 1 Corinthians 11 and Hebrews 13. Perhaps my wife and I also looked like an interesting couple, being that I have blonde hair and blue eyes and my wife is Cambodian, so she looks the exact opposite.
I don’t believe I said anything controversial, though I did quote Ephesians 2:8-10. It is my fear that their attention to rules, many of which that are extra-biblical (which isn’t necessarily bad because not doing drugs is a good rule to follow though it isn’t explicitly in the Bible), takes the place of daily devotion.
This is where I have to be very careful to not judge, yet at the same time be able to exercise discernment. I was told, “We don’t really study the Scripture unless we have to teach it.” This seems “bad” on first glance, but we have to remember that for most of Christian history the average believer did not own a copy of the Scripture. Singing a hymn from church while one was working and by the Holy Spirit living by what is taught in Scripture and by the Church constituted the Christian walk.
So, we all don’t have to be Biblical scholars to be pleasing in God’s sight.
When I pried a little more into this issue, asking what shapes he felt his Christian walk took, I was told that, “My life is God’s. This farm is God’s. We have not had enough rain. If it kills the crops, well, they are not mine. Living is my worship.”
I am not sure how many heart-felt prayers are made, or if a lot of everything is rote. I cannot understand the hearts of men, only God can. However, I am open to the possibility that I essentially come out of a very emotionally-driven culture where the faithful are very introspective about it. Perhaps, not being introspective is not that big a deal. Further, the fact they had hospitality, owned a 180 acre farm while driving a 1980s Honda Accord, and had a good family life would appear to be good Christian fruit. They have access to God’s word in the [King James Version] Scripture. God’s word has power. Perhaps God has room for both the Arminians and the Calvinists.
It is my prayer that if it is either them, or us, when we read Romans 3 that we realize apart from God’s grace, we are those people. We are not righteous. We do not seek God. Apart from faith in Christ, we are those men. We have new hearts in Christ, it is no longer us who lives but Christ that lives in us (Gal 2:20). If Christ lives in us, it is not what we do that saves us, but it is because He lives in us. We are righteous because what He has done and what He is. We are “sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,” we don’t have to keep proving to God we are good enough to be saved. Because in reality, apart from Christ, our righteousness is like filthy rags (Is 64:6).
And only if these words came to me at dining room table! Maybe we will be back some day.