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Jesus came in contact with several people who weren’t orthodox Jews, but rather were heretics or idolaters. We have the Samaritans, who had mixed Judaism with pagan influences, and who were forbidden to worship the Lord in Jerusalem. The Romans were colonialist immigrants from other parts of the empire, and even if some had become proselytes (like Cornelius, Acts 10), most of them worshiped the Roman idols of Jupiter, Mars and others. There were also adherents of other religions in the areas of Decapolis, where Jesus did some miracles (Mark 5).
How did Jesus relate to these idolatrous Gentiles? Well, He simply took control over a state, became President and deported them. Wait, He didn’t? Then at least He commanded His disciples to take control over a country and deport all the idolaters? Huh, He didn’t do that either?!
Not that those ideas didn’t float around in Jesus’ time. The Zealot movement and other radical Jewish groups wanted to fight against the Romans and drive those stupid colonialists back to Europe (which they also tried in 70 and 135 AD, and failed miserably). Many believed that this was what the Messiah was supposed to do. Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans (Jn 4:9), and vice versa, and when some Samaritans heard that Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, they forbade Him to enter their village. Enraged, John and James suggested that Jesus should order a heavenly genocide from above, burning those heretics alive (Lk 9:51-54).
But Jesus rebuked them. He didn’t come to barbeque idolaters but to save them. He loved Samaritans, shared the Gospel with them and used a Samaritan as the good example in His famous parable about loving everyone indiscriminately (Jn 4, Lk 10). He told His Jewish disciples to love the Romans, pray for them, and walk the extra mile with them (Lk 6). Do to them as you would have them do to you (Mt 7:12). He didn’t fight to kick the Romans out of Israel. Instead, He was crucified by them, dying for their sins. On the cross, He shouted: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing!” (Lk 23:34). (more…)
As many of you know, I am glad to be a part of the MennoNerds network, an international blogging community made up by people who are nerdy about Mennonite and Anabaptist theology. The Anabaptists were the central figures in the radical reformation during the 16th century. While Luther and Calvin opposed Catholic teaching they still wanted to kill people and were opposed to freedom of religion. Anabaptists however both criticized Catholic teaching and the Catholic church model when one baptizes entire countries, gather people in cathedrals and kill those who don’t agree with you.
The Anabaptists were of course persecuted and killed both by Catholics and Protestants. However, some survived and can today be found in three main groups: the Amish who dress funny and live environmentally friendly, the Hutterites who dress funny and have everything in common, and the Mennonites who dress boringly and write blogs about Anabaptism.
- Jesus Centered– Jesus stands as the lens by which Anabaptists read the entire Bible, and the exemplary by which we engage all theology.
- Free Church of Confessing, Baptized Disciples – the Anabaptists were opposed to infant baptism partly because it wasn’t Biblical, and partly because it created a society where your nationality, not your faith, defined you church membership, and that was opposed to freedom of religion
- Agents of God’s Shalom – Anabaptists are pacifists committed to non-violence, but not only do we want an absence of war but also a presence of Shalom, justice and harmony.
A friend who is working with missions in Asia told me the other day about a Pakistani Christian girl, Samariya Nadeem, from Punjab in Pakistan, who was abducted by a Muslim landowner and forced to marry him after conversion to Islam. There is a petition directed to the Chief Minister of Punjab that asks him to free Samariya and make sure that freedom of religion and the freedom to marry volontarily is protected in Pakistan.
So far, police have failed to pursue any legal action against the local wealthy Muslim landowner who abducted the girl because of the influence he wields. Police investigators were also unable to talk to the bruised and terrified victim. Anonymous police sources confirmed that the girl was “abducted” and forced to marry. However, an Islamic cleric involved in the affair said that it was “not illegal to abduct and convert non-Muslims”.
Civil society groups and human rights activists have appealed to Punjab’s chief minister to take action and return Samariya to her parents and bring her abductor to justice. Kidnappings and forced marriages are a major issue in Pakistan, especially in Southern Punjab and in the interior of Sindh province. It is common in the region that young, religious minority, women and girls are forcefully converted and married away to influential landlords who keep them as slaves.