This week we studied the reform efforts of the Anabaptists. Seen as radical reformers, Anabaptists challenged many of the prevailing notions of society. Looking to Scripture, Anabaptists saw a totally different way of life modeled by the first Christians. Whether or not one agrees with the theology of the Anabaptists, their reform e orts do remind us of the subversive nature of the Christian faith. In His earthly ministry, Jesus came proclaiming the kingdom of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15 niv). Jesus was proclaiming God’s reign and rule coming down to earth. Jesus is King. As we see in Scripture, His is an upside-down kingdom. It’s a kingdom that is countercultural and calls into question prevailing notions of what power, love, and true faith look like. As the Anabaptists “discovered a different world in the pages of the New Testament,” so too do we find the kingdom of God calling us to a different way of living and loving.
In what ways are we called as followers of Jesus to question and challenge the status quo? How is our faith countercultural? The Anabaptists looked to the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. There we are reminded of the countercultural way of Jesus. Here is just a part of Jesus’ teaching from this famous sermon that points us to the upside-down way of the kingdom: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3–10 NIV).
For many of us, a Bible is always within arm’s reach. This is especially true now that many of us have the Bible on our phones. But for Christians in certain parts of the world today, and for Christians throughout the centuries, this has not been the case. Consider this: part of the reform efforts in places like England included the idea of getting the Bible into the hands of the people in their own language. This was considered revolutionary! Other reform e orts centered on simply translating the Bible into common languages so people had a chance of reading it. As we read this week, these e orts did not go unchallenged. Why do you think it was considered dangerous to allow the Bible to be read by common, ordinary people?
What about your life? As you read Scripture, how are you being challenged, convicted, and encouraged to follow Jesus? Could it be that opening our Bibles and reading Scripture is not merely a devotional act of the religious but an action on our part that allows the very Word of God to shape us and form us? In other words, as we encounter God’s voice in Scripture, we are transformed. Could it be that we are made into the sort of dangerous people who go around proclaiming a kingdom that is so very upside-down compared to the ways of our world?
While we read of historical figures and facts, it could be easy to forget the devotion to God that moved these men and women. Let’s end our week reflecting on the words of Teresa of Avila: “Let’s strive to make more progress in self-knowledge, for in my opinion we shall never completely know ourselves if we don’t strive to know God. By gazing at His grandeur, we get in touch with our own lowliness; by looking at His purity, we shall see our own lth; by pondering His humility, we shall see how far we are from being humble.”
“The loving exchange that takes place between the soul and God is so sweet that I beg Him in His goodness to give a taste of this love to anyone who thinks I am lying.”