Beliefs that bind us

Jan 19, 2015 by

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2014 was a year of testing for my congregation, for Lancaster Mennonite Conference and for Mennonite Church USA. Beginning the new year on a clean page, our faithful redeemer God offers us hope for the journey. Recently I read Alfred Neufeld’s What We Believe Together. I am grateful to belong to a church that holds to the “shared convictions” that Neufeld explores. Mennonite World Conference embodies many diverse Anabaptist-related church bodies. Within these communions — polity differences notwithstanding — these core beliefs bind us together. No one would deny that our nationalities, ethnicities, cultures, traditions and tribal peculiarities create conflict and discomfort. Do we therefore separate? Or can we say with Paul in Romans 8 that neither cultural differences nor scriptural interpretations nor regional traditions will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord? If congregations or conferences withdraw from MC USA, will we also turn away from MWC? More important, will such action promote our fulfilling the Great Commission? What We Believe Together summarizes a core of beliefs that followers of Jesus can rally around. I find this hopeful for my congregation, for Lancaster Conference and for MC USA.

Charles B. Longenecker
Lititz, Pa.

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  • Elaine Fehr

    Where in Romans 8 does it say, “cultural differences nor scriptural interpretations nor regional traditions will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord?”

    • Elaine Fehr

      It’s five days now since the question was asked with no response, so I’ll follow up here with what Paul actually did say, which is a wonderful thing! – “I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38, 39

      The richness of that verse comes alive when read within the context of the rest of the chapter. Right at the onset of Romans 8, a distinction made between those who walk in the flesh and those who walk in the Spirit. The state of the first is “enmity with God” with the consequence of that being death. But those who are in Christ, and walk in the Spirit, are now children of God and have life.

      So, when it comes to dividing issues like the acceptance of the practise of homosexuality within a church, how should we see that issue? Do we dare to see it as a cultural or traditional difference? Or should we look at it as a matter of “walking in the flesh”? I would say that looking at it as a cultural or traditional difference is a smoke screen over the real issue – “walking in the flesh”. Here’s why:

      Even though God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish, the truth of 1 Corinthians 6:9 still holds true! -” Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” Those are all examples of “walking in the flesh”.

      But it doesn’t stop there. Paul goes on to say in verse 11, “And such WERE (my emphasis) some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” That’s good news! There’s a change that takes place when we are washed in the blood of Jesus. Formerly, we may have been fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, sodomites, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, extortioners”. But now we’re not those things anymore – we’ve left them behind. So how do we get to that place? A few words from Jesus Christ answers that in Mark 1:15 – “Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

      Is the matter of repentance being left out of the discussion? Sadly, that appears to be the case. All for the sake of an appearance of “unity”, which cannot exist when unrighteousness is allowed to prevail. And I’m sure that it is because God’s love is so great, that the words of Ezekiel 19:32 hold true -“For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God. “Therefore turn and live!”

  • Julia Horst

    Thank you Elaine–well said!

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