"There can be no question but that the great principles of freedom of conscience, separation of church and state, and voluntarism in religion, so basic in American Protestantism and so essential to democracy, ultimately are derived from the Anabaptists of the Reformation period," Parade of Faith
Ya gotta love a quote like that from a non-Baptist historian.
We could be cynical and say that early anabaptist teaching regarding religious tolerance emerged from a survival instinct. Some of our spiritual forefathers suffered equally at the hands of Catholics and Protestants. Nonetheless, there is a rich Biblical foundation for their position:
“Let both grow together until the harvest” (Mt 13:30)
Three essential maxims in the Parable of the wheat and the tares:
God lets people exercise their will... wants us to let people do the same.
We shouldn't be afraid to let people say what they think... blaspheme everything holy in the process... proclaim their anti-God agenda... mock Christianity. Even the tare stuff shouldn't surprise us (people labeled as Christian spouting off anti-christian thought and living in an unchristian manner). They can't affect us... or God. In the end, even their ranting will have served to glorify Him... and in more than a few cases, when the Holy Spirit moves, their own self-indictment is part of what God uses to bring them, broken and repentant, back to Himself.
"Surely the wrath of man shall praise you; the remnant of wrath you will put on like a belt." (Psalms 76:10)
Why do we find it hard to give people their own personal space? By their overbearing, manipulative tactics, some so-called spiritual leaders pretend to take away from the individual his/her God-given right to think and decide… to embrace the Gospel or not… to follow Christ or not… to live a holy life or not.
Thieves attempting to steal our freedom of conscience.
Religious tolerance that reflects Spirit-filled integrity ought to be portrayed in church leadership. Jesus saw the pastorless multitudes and had compassion on them... gave his life for them. Some look at the multitudes and see a means to an end.
Preserving a true spirit of tolerance is as precarious as bringing an endangered species back from the brink. The multitudes ARE pastorless, they ARE vulnerable, they DO seek, albeit imperfectly. We could wrongly take advantage of some if we so chose.
We can easily have people circumventing their own personal process of discovering the Lordship of Christ and a Holy Spirit guided life. Some will take the lazy route: substituting their pastor and his particular set of passions, convictions and rules for their own personal journey toward a true walk with Christ.
We should not let people get away with that if we can help it. We should insist that they exercise their God-given right (obligation) to make the journey for themselves.
For the sovereignty of God folks (I lean more that direction), why should that be a problem? Are we afraid that people might not end up exactly where we are? Hmm... maybe that's a good thing... a God-given system of checks and balances that protects the leader from getting too self-assured.
There are some things that God does not need our help with. Rooting out the tares is one of them. When all is said and done, not one teeny tiny weed will end up in God's kingdom; not one little grain of wheat will slip through the Harvester's fingers into the fire.
Letting the nations "rage" (Ps 2:1,4) is more than just an essential ingredient if we want some semblance of democracy as a form of government: it is an integral part of how God's people interact with the world around us. We boldly proclaim a message of reconciliation and hope of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ. We love and respect our neighbors enough to defend their very personal decision-making process.
By doing so, we evidence our implicit trust in the power of our message. We walk away smiling because we know what the Holy Spirit can do with the words we have spoken... if and when He chooses.
(first posted 6.21.2012)
Greg grew up in Menomonee Falls, WI. His ministry began in 1976: 5 years in Central America, 36 in Mexico. Church planting and discipleship have been his passion.
"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." -Matthew 13:44
Concise devotions in Spanish and English, along with some lengthier essays… Designed for personal spiritual growth and to help anyone studying English or Spanish as a second language to improve their skills… Rev 14:6
To highlight one essential facet of the eternal Gospel of Jesus Christ... Rev 14:6; 2 Cor. 5:18