Not by coercion

Apr 27, 2015 by

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I encourage all delegates to the Mennonite Church USA convention to read “Christ-Centered Unity Is Still Possible” by John M. Miller (March 30). He suggests that our “obedience to Jesus” has been exchanged for church documents “considered foundational and sacred. . . . We have exchanged this fundamental dynamic that unites for a set of opinions that divide.” We are called to be witnesses to Jesus, “not coercers of others.” It is essential to “eliminate the idea that my faithfulness involves coercing others to my point of view.” Five hundred years ago, Hans Denck contributed similar wise words: “But you, when hearing your brother speak something that is strange to you, do not immediately contradict it, but hear if it be true, that you might also accept it. If you cannot understand it, you should not judge him, and, if he considers you to be slightly in error, consider whether your error might be even greater.” Denck considers separating himself from fellowship only with those who refuse to listen to him and wish to coerce him to believe as they do (see my article, “Reclaim the Wisdom of Hans Denck,” The Mennonite, February 2011). We can show respect and love for those with whom we disagree by listening. This dialogue cannot be one-sided; it cannot be orchestrated to smooth over differences: It cannot be coercive. Let’s do more listening and less talking.

Ruth Anne Abraham
Austin, Texas

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