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Monday, December 20, 2010

Being Mennonite - The Faith

Faith is a complex topic.
By definition it is the belief in God and/or the doctrines and teachings of a religion. One’s faith, whatever that may mean, or the choice to not believe in anything is intensely personal. While I firmly believe what I do I recognize that each person is unique and there are many opinions and beliefs in the world. Naturally I would love everyone to believe what I do because it brings me great joy and peace, but I respect the reality of human contrarieties. Faith is hard to discuss without the risk of sounding “preachy“. Preachy is not my intent so please try to read this solely as a source of information if that is all you wish to take out of this. I’ve grown up with this so if anything I’ve written is confusing please ask because what may be commonplace to me is likely to be foreign to someone else.

The Mennonites church I grew up in has something called the “Confession of Faith” which is the framework of our essential beliefs. I’ve referred to that for this post but I haven’t included it all and have added my own points.

* We believe in God, that there is only one God, and that He is Creator of all things. We believe God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, a concept also known as the Trinity.

* We believe in Jesus Christ, the son of God. “He is the Savior of the world, who has redeemed us of sin and reconciled us to God by his death on a cross.” Oh how do I explain this one? Hmmm let’s see. We believe that people are born as sinners (this is not meant to be an insult, I totally put myself in this category). Sin is anything from a little white lie to murdering another person; a moral or legal violation. Basically, pre-Jesus, God required man to make regular animal sacrifices where blood was shed in order to be reconciled of their sins. Then along came Jesus who was crucified on a cross as the ultimate sacrifice, thus eliminating the need for animal offerings once and for all. All people have to do now to be in God’s favour is to believe that Jesus died for us and ask Him to reside in our hearts. This is what becoming a Christian, or “saved“ or “born again“ means.

*We believe in the Holy Spirit, an invisible omnipresent form of God. (present everywhere simultaneously). I realize this is a rather bizarre concept when I really think about it! If I pray or “talk to God” I believe that He is beside me listening. Bizarre or not I find it an incredible comfort.

* We believe in the Holy Bible and that it is God inspired and the ultimate authority of our faith.

*We avoid the swearing of oaths. For example, if someone is a witness in court we will not put up our right hand and “swear” to tell the truth… we will say that we “affirm.”

* “We believe that peace is the will of God. God created the world in peace, and God's peace is most fully revealed in Jesus Christ, who is our peace and the peace of the whole world.” If you’ve ever read from the Old Testament of the Bible the barbarism and war is very apparent. Then comes Christ who was not violent or ever fought but at the same time was not in any way a pushover. He managed to accomplish everything peacefully. “We follow Christ in the way of peace, doing justice, bringing reconciliation, and practicing nonresistance, even in the face of violence and warfare.”

* We believe that the Lord's Supper or Communion (the bread and wine ceremony) is symbolic of Christ‘s body and blood. We do this as a sign of remembrance of his sacrificial death on the cross.

* We believe in baptism of Christians with water and that it is a sign of their freedom from sin. It is viewed as a person’s choice and not a method of being saved.

*We believe in heaven and hell. When a person’s earthly body dies their soul goes to either of the two places. Heaven being eternal life with God and hell being eternal separation from God. Although we believe the Bible reads that only Christians go to heaven we fully realize that the meaning and judgment of that is completely up to God.

*I’m not sure of the official stance of this one but I but I believe in angels and demons and Satan.

That is the gist of it.
The majority of Christian faiths will essentially agree with most of these points. It's the finer points such as how to conduct a church service, type of music and instruments used, baptism types, various lifestyle aspects, and so on that have resulted in the many different kinds of churches both within the Mennonite faith and beyond. That is why Trevor and I can still embrace our Mennonite background while attending another type of church - because the meat of the faith is still the same. I'll go into this a little more in the next post where I talk about the cultural aspects of being Mennonite and some of my personal thoughts on the church.

Again, don't hesitate to ask questions. Please email if you're more comfortable with that.

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