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"Unlikely Hero's : Hero's in Context"

Dear Brothers and Sisters, There is a particular danger in studying and learning from the lives of the people of God (whether long dead or still alive today). Actually, there are several dangers. Perhaps, the greatest danger is that of idolizing people; making them the image to imitate instead of Christ. But the greatest saint is only worthy insofar as he imitates the Lord. Hence, the apostle Paul said "Follow me, as I follow Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). While it may be tempting to say "Follow me" or "Follow (so and so)", we must always be on guard against such thinking. However, the danger about which I wish to speak today is a different sort of danger. It is the danger of looking at history out of context. I believe it was C.S. Lewis who spoke about "chronological snobbery," by which he meant the idea that our present way of thinking is superior to the thoughts and ideas of the past. Every period of time has it's blind spot's including today. Therefore, we should not read history as though we have nothing to learn from the past. We should also watch when we study the past that we are not inserting our "modern" worldview upon people who did not (necessarily) think like us. This is not to say that we need to be a History Major to understand and learn from our history, but it is to say that we should dig deeper and think more broadly about the past. If we are not careful, we read history for tweetable quotes and little tidbits rather than to really learn from the faith (and failures) of our fathers. When studying the past ask yourself WHAT they said (and did) and WHY. Take the Reformers and Anabaptists for example. The Anabaptists were a diverse group who held in common the belief that people ought to be rebaptized as adults upon confession of faith. Anabaptists were often persecuted and killed in Protestant and Catholic nations during the 16th century. Now if this sounds terrible to you, I'm right there with you. But before we throw Reformers like Luther and Calvin to the wolves, we might try to understand what was going on that led to the slaughter of Anabaptists by Catholics and Protestants alike. On at least one level, the reasoning was political stability. After the Anabaptist Revolt in Munster, Germany (yes not all Anabaptists were pacifist), the Anabaptist's were seen as too revolutionary to be tolerated. The rebellion and siege of Munster in 1532-1536, along with other uprisings such as the "Peasant's Revolt," contributed to a great persecution of those with Anabaptist convictions regardless of whether they were a threat to society. Now understanding this does not absolve the Reformers of guilt where they sinned, but it does help us understand what happened at least in part. The Reformers were men of their times, which means that like us they were rightly or wrongly influenced by the cultural currents of their day. It turns out "the Reformed church still needed reforming." And I would add (lest we commit the sin of "chronological snobbery") that we do also. I hope by this example to point out the messiness of the history of the Church. We should not cookie cutter pick and choose the bits we like about our "heros," and neither should we think ourselves above the same errors. The history of God's people is complex, but well worth studying with humility and Bible in hand. God's Kingdom after all still advances and triumphs in a fallen and hostile world. Grace & Peace, Matt Matthew Deneault Pastor at Christ Community Fellowship
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