Gospel should change lives
‘Peculiar’ people unashamed of call to repentanceBy Luke Bennetch
I am part of the Pilgrim Mennonite Conference group that is holding services in New York City. In the June 20, 2011, issue of Mennonite Weekly Review, Charlie Kraybill commented on our work in the Bronx in an article titled, “In the City, Might the Saving Process Go Both Ways?” He noted that when Mennonites went to the city as missionaries in earlier decades, change came to them in similar proportions to the change they expected to bring to the city.
In response, I ask: In the city, shouldn’t the gospel change lives?
The apostle Paul admonishes us, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). He testifies in Rom. 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
Study the account of Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill in Acts 17 and notice the call to repentance — a complete turnaround. This is gospel power, first changing the missionary and then bringing change to the people who receive this gospel message.
It is this gospel we bring to New York City. It is this gospel we recommend to all men everywhere, including Mennonite churches that have moved away from it. This gospel calls all men to repent of sin and walk with God in a new life.
Titus 2:11-14 points to the change the gospel teaches us to experience: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”
This gospel makes us “peculiar,” set apart as noticeably different from the mainstream of society — and, sadly, from mainstream Mennonites.
We do not dress differently just to preserve a culture or to attract attention. We are different because we believe the gospel teaches a change from society, separation from the world, modesty, simplicity, sobriety, purity, holiness, marriage to one partner for life, and much more.
We believe the Bible is the Word of God, and we try to take New Testament teachings and obey them in detail. We take the Sermon on the Mount as relevant for the church today; therefore, we are nonresistant. We do not serve in the military. We do not sue at law, but rather extend love to those who seek to harm us.
We believe Jesus taught us that divorce is wrong, and so our members may not initiate a divorce. We believe the Bible is clear that marriage is one man and one woman for life. We accept the 1 Corinthians 11 headship veiling for Christian women.
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