You might be wondering why I am so critical of the Reformed and seemingly high on the Anabaptists, when I claim to be Reformed. Well, the people I am around the most are Reformed people, so I see our own flaws more than I see the flaws of the Anabaptist. I suppose that if I attended an Anabaptist church it might be the opposite. But secondly, I think it is a good habit to criticize or be harder on your own, than on those outside of your circle.
We can criticize the faults and sins of the Negro all day long, but that is not going to help us much, even though his problems appear to be greater than ours. We need to look at ourselves; us Europeans have a lot to repent of and America would not be in the state it is today if not for the departure from the word of God of our own people. It is not the Negro's fault or the Jew's fault; they are simply God's instruments of judgment against us for our sins.
We must take the same attitude in area of Christian sects. Let us examine ourselves and see where we can improve. We cannot blame the problems in the church (and by inference, the problems in America) on other sects of Christianity. If we hold the true form of doctrine, we must lead out by example in the practical areas of life.
The Days of Old.. Sort Of
I recall the days of old; well, about 10-12 years ago or so. We had just come out of the Independent, Fundament Baptist Church. And if you know about these type of Christians, they are church-goers who are excited about church and even sometimes about "soul winning", but their idea of Christianity is just going to church and passing along the chain-message, and the cycle repeating again and again. Not much true discipleship happens, if any. The best distinction they maintain between themselves and the world is that perhaps they do not drink alcohol or watch Rated R movies (which is a very low standard). They did not practice very earnestly the virtue of hospitality.
Our small church (sort of a combination between an Independent Baptist and Anabaptist, with a slight atmosphere of home-church) decided to attend a weekend of religious meetings in Ephrata, PA, which was about 5-6 hours away. We only had 1 or 2 children at that time, I believe. In most of these type of situations, whatever kind of meetings, you would have to stay at a hotel. You can see with a lot of events, it will be announced, a list of "places to stay" while in the area. This is what I had always been accustomed to and thought nothing of it. But instead, there were multiple families more than willing to take us into their home and treat us like royalty. The provisions they gave were more than gracious while we were there. And these people did not know us at all, and did not even really know most of the people of our small congregation.
The Way This Type of Anabaptist Operates
In the type of circles I described above, it is common, it is expected, it is preached, and it is ingrained into the very being of these sort of Christians: Hospitality is the chief characteristic of the Christian. This is charity (1Corthians 13) in practice. There is no way that the church (the called out ones) out there in Ephrata, PA would have ever allowed any Christian, whether they knew him or not, to have to pay for a hotel for a night. And in addition to that, there is no way that such Christians they take in would not be treated with the highest honor.
"I was a stranger, and ye took me in:" -- Matthew 25:35
The Sheep and The Goats
This church had a culture of hospitality. And I am not saying that no other Christian groups have ever nor am I saying that no sect of Christianity has a resemblance of this type of charity. But I have never seen it so embraced zealously, as I have with this particular group of Anabaptist churches. They are the same, whatever part of the country you dwell in. For example, in the particular church nearby that we attend occasionally, any visitor is asked by several families to join them for supper at their home after the service, to the point where you have to turn down many offers before the day is done. In my experience thus far, I have yet to see anything like it. They do it because they desire to do it, not because it is a duty or obligation. They will do anything for anyone, and drop everything just to serve others. And this sets them apart from the rest, in my opinion.
This does not just play out in the area of taking in strangers. It applies to all areas of life and is an example of the main theme: laying down our lives for others. Dying to our own desires and will. It is living out these verses:
"We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised.
Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace;
And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:
Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day....
Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me." -- 1Corinthians 4:10-13,16
Real Life Genuine Hospitality
I certainly do not intend to say that the only examples of self-sacrifice and hospitality are found in Anabaptist circles. A couple of years ago, we were blessed to run into good old-fashioned Southern Christian Hospitality.
My wife met a few godly Christian families online through her blog. One of the families in Tennessee invited us down to visit for a few days. So we drove down, but on the way there, there was a huge pothole on the highway, while going through a one lane construction zone. There was a huge "thump" driving over it. I wonder how many tires that thing blew out and the damage it finally did. There was literally no way of avoiding it and no warning about it. Well, we did not notice any damage until later in the trip.
When we were about to leave the host family's house, the father of the home offered to change my tire to a spare tire, because he could see that there had been damage due to that pothole. So he changed the tire and we were on our way. But after reaching about an hour away, north, we heard a rattling noise coming from the tire. I slowed down a lot and put on my flashers in the right lane, trying to reach the next exit. But about a half mile before the exit, the tire came off entirely and we could see it rolling down the highway ahead of us in the traffic (it is actually really funny looking back at it, ha ha!). By the grace of God, I pulled onto the side of the highway and everything was okay.. other than that we were stranded, one hour from our friends (we had just crossed over into Virginia) and 5-6 hours from home.
What happened afterward was impressive on every part, to say the least. We not only witnessed the extreme hospitality of the families of a small fellowship on the TN/VA border, but also witnessed the radical culture difference between this territory and where we live, in NE Ohio.
We called the family (our friends) and the father drove down to where we were on the highway, and took my family to a local town where there was a Wendy's restaurant. We got some food there and while I won't go into all the details here, the people treated my family like royalty while I left with our friend to try to get the van repaired (even though they kind of over-stayed their welcome, with no where else to wait).
Our friend and I drove to try to find a place to get the van repaired; and being that it was Sunday, that was difficult. What had happened, is the bolts that held on the rim had completely broken off (in case you are wondering if our friend did not install the spare tire correctly-- no, he did not). He took us all back to his house for the night. And that night and the next day (before we went to repair the van) was one of the most Holy Spirit filled times we ever experienced, as we enjoyed a much better fellowship than we previously had during the visit, and his family (a wonderfully gifted musical family) played beautiful hymns for us on the piano, violin, and Cello.
Our friend found a place that repaired commercial semi-trucks, and he paid to have it towed there; when he called the place the next morning, the owner (an old hillbilly type of guy), although he told us he could not fix it, cheerfully offered for us to use any of his tools and equipment to make the repair ourselves (that is hospitality, seemingly contagious in that part of the country).
After a few hours of finding the right parts and doing the difficult work, we had it finished. To top it off, the fellowship centered around that area all contributed to give us $100.00 to buy another tire when we got home. They certainly went over the top on hospitality. But this is just the normal Christian life for these type of people. And these people, not Anabaptist by any means, have that very same spirit that dominates many of the Anabaptist circles I am familiar with. These people barely knew us and were willing to bear all kinds of inconvenience and suffer loss for our sakes.
We need to learn from these blessed examples. As I have maintained for a while now, there are huge strengths in many different Christian sects. If you want duty, realize that it is our duty to search and seek and discover the areas of weaknesses in our own camps, and to repent and apply the word of God faithfully, as we see the fruit of other groups demonstrated before our eyes.