Mennonites are just a cultural group of people with a religious tradition of having descended from Catholic roots but rebelling against institutional religion based on power and control by religious leaders instead of by revelation of the Holy Spirit through the scriptures and personal belief in Christ as adult believers.
They met secretly at first and now they meet openly, having left the land of their nativity and having been scattered through the earth. Unfortunately, some of the dogma and sins of their fathers have followed them and I’m calling for repentance. I’m a Mennonite by birth and culture and by choice. I stand for the things we are good at, community loyalty and personal faith in God, lived out by love for God and our community. We need to change. We need to stop sinning.
Here are some of our sins.
- Top down leadership. We need to stop allowing ourselves to be led by the hirelings, people who care about power and throw our men, women and children to the wolves. Power is not how Jesus led. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness (Philippians 2:3-7 NIV). If power is not how Jesus leads, why are we Mennonites setting our churches up that way? From the boards and bishops and bishop boards down, we position ourselves in a way that promotes top down leadership rather than being servants to the least of these. Jesus said the Gentiles rule by top down leadership in Matthew. “Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles Lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:25-28 NIV).” How can we betray the son of man this way?How blasphemous to presume to be greater than Him!
- We coddle sinners in the name of grace. When a person sins willfully and horribly but they say they’re sorry after their sin is found out, we so quickly believe them and grant them forgiveness and mercy. The ones they sin against get told to forgive, even if they sinned against children! Jesus doesn’t do that. “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea (Mark 9:42 NIV).” Granted we are not about to collect millstones or fabricate concrete shoes for the sinners among us. But the least we can do is to protect our wounded children, our sinned against by showing them what protection and love really is, instead of coddling the sinners and ushering the wolves to dine among the sheep. God forbid! Instead we need to expect the sin to stop immediately and prevent them from sinning by keeping them away from the people they hurt until their repentance leads them to a willingness to suffer because of their sin. What sinner is sorry unless he or she shows fruits of repentance? The thief who steals is not hired as a cashier in the same store he robbed. Instead, he’s expected to work to pay back what he stole and not only that but to be generous giving to those who don’t have. “Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need (Ephesians 4:28 NIV).” Restitution and generosity are marks of repentance for a thief. For someone who commits a crime, his or her life needs to reflect the exact opposite, not simply say, “I’m sorry.”
- Pride is acceptable in Mennonite churches. “It’s ok to think we’re better than anyone else because domestic abuse and sexual immorality only happens in the world, not in our own churches. We’re better than anyone else.” Oh, no, we are not! No, we are not. Our people have murdered, raped and sexually abused children. Being Mennonite does not prevent us from sin. Being godly does. When our people sin, we’d rather cover it up and pretend we’re holier than everyone else. But we are not. We are proud. We are sinful. We need repentance and humility. We need to expose the sin in our midst! Not expect the world to treat us with compassion and tenderness. The rest of the world is not our enemy. The devil is! The devil loves how proud we are and how unwilling we are deal with the sin among us.
- We neglect to use Matthew 18 correctly. “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector (Matthew 18: 15-17 NIV).” We’ve been doing a lot of treating the victims of our perpetrators like pagans. God, have mercy! We are sinful people!
- We have meetings with only half the church, disregarding the example of Acts 6:3 when both brothers and sisters met together to make decisions. The Gentile widows (the least among the primarily Jewish church) were being neglected so they appointed (get this) Gentile men to help. They, men and women together, chose the people who understood the needs of those who were in need the most and met the needs. Brothers meetings are unethical and ridiculously mindless and excluding of the needs of women and exclude the wisdom of half the church. It takes both to meet the needs of us all in the church.
Ok, these are some of our predominant sins. Let’s start here and start repenting! I’m on my knees at the altar, repenting. Join me. Amen.