Things I learned or experienced this summer #5

Aare River

Sometimes there is a fine line between acts of bravery and sheer stupidity—crossing Niagara Falls on a tight rope might fall under the latter category for most of us. Can the same question be asked about acts of faith? Many first generation Anabaptists whose stories we read about in Martyrs Mirror and other sources may have been more excited than I would be to join a peace march or do door to door evangelism. They often seem to be on the cantankerous end of the spectrum. Were they just so zealous for their faith or did they cross the line into extremism? There were those on both sides. Here are two lesser known stories we encountered this summer.

The Hutterite Chronicle reports that in 1529 hundreds of Anabaptists were executed in the Pallatinate, an area of southwestern Germany. The persecution was so severe that the Anabaptist movement was temporarily suppressed; however 30 years later Hutterite missionaries returned. Leonard Dax was one of these. He was ordained to the ministry by the Hutterian Brethren in 1564 and in 1567 was sent to the Pallatinate to visit the churches there. He was arrested for his evangelistic work and imprisoned in the castle at Alzey. He answered his captors boldly and was not moved by their threats or bribes, and, contrary to many of his sisters and brothers, was eventually released.

In the city of Bern it was common practice to tie up Anabaptists, put them on a boat in the Aare River and send them downstream. If they survived they might be helped by German or Dutch Anabaptists further downstream, upon which they often promptly returned to Bern to continue where they left off. Nikolas Zedo was one of these. He became an active Anabaptist preacher and pastor in the Bern area already in his youth. He was arrested numerous times, confessed openly about his activities, and numerous times he escaped and promptly returned to his work as a pastor and preacher. He was called a “stiff-necked and disobedient Anabaptist” as a result.

Where is the line today? How far will you go to spread the Gospel? Would you join a peace march? Would you go door to door offering to pray with people?