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Posts Tagged ‘loving enemies’

I have been sharing with you off and on, some stories of real Christians who lived after Bible times who exemplify faithfulness to Jesus, to encourage us and to challenge us to be faithful in our own life situations. Today I am sharing with you about a married couple who faithfully served the Lord – it’s the story of Michael and Margaretha Sattler.

Their story takes place in Europe in the early 1500’s. During their lives the Protestant reformation began and many Christians were seeking to follow Jesus in ways that went beyond what they had been taught.

Let’s begin with –

Michael and Margaretha’s background

Not much is known of Michael’s early life. He was born in Staufen, Germany, just south of Freiburg.

Sattler map

At some point Michael entered St. Peter’s Benedictine monastery.

st peter's'

St. Peter’s

He attained the status of Prior in the monastery, which made him second-in-charge. He was thus considered a part of the upper class of his day; a “lord.” He had status and respect.

From what we know, he was a serious and devout monk who took part in a spiritual renewal at his monastery (the inter-Benedictine Bursfeld reformation). He might have even been in charge of this.

Even less is known about Margaretha. She is said to have been a Beguine, a semi-monastic group of women who worked with the poor. She was described by one person as “a refined and comely (pretty) little woman.” (p. 80)

Some key transitions

In mid-1525 Michael left the monastery. It had been captured by Protestant-ish  peasant revolutionaries, some of whom were Anabaptists, that is, people who rejected infant baptism. They were demanding economic justice from their lords for over-taxation and oppression and were doing so on the basis of a call to live by what the Scriptures teach. It’s possible that Sattler, as Prior, was the one these revolutionaries presented their claims to. He must have become a sympathizer to their cause, because after leaving the monastery, he shows up again in the Waldshut area, where many of these revolutionaries came from.

Sometime between May 1525 and May 1526 he and Margaretha were married. We don’t know how they met, but she may have already been a part of an Anabaptist group.He learned the trade of weaving to support them in their new life together.

In November of 1525 he attended the famous infant baptism disputation in Zurich (November 6-8). He most likely went simply to hear the arguments on this topic. He was eventually arrested by the Protestant Zurich authorities who opposed Anabaptists. They perhaps knew that he was sympathetic to them. He was released on November 18th after he swore to leave the region.

By June 1526 he was baptized as a believer, instead of simply being infant baptized.

Michael’s ministry

 Sattler ministry map

Not long after his baptism he began a ministry of evangelizing in the area north of Zurich.

Then in late 1526 he spent time in Strasbourg. He met with various Anabaptist groups and also with the local Protestant reformers there (Capito and Bucer). Protestants at this time despised Anabaptists because of their views, and because most were uneducated and unsophisticated. Michael, however was on their social level and they came to respect him. He called on them to release the Anabaptists they had imprisoned.

Next he went to Lahr, north of Freiburg, to evangelize (January-February 1527).

Then he went to Schleitheim for an important meeting, and then he went to Horb to be the pastor of the Anabaptist congregation there.

Horb

Horb

The Schleitheim meeting – February 24, 1527

Because of disagreements among the Swiss brethren Anabaptists and because so many of the early leaders were dead, (the average lifespan of a leader was two years because of fierce persecution) they met together secretly in the village of Schleitheim.

Schleitheim

Schleitheim

Sattler book

Book containing an early copy of the Schleitheim confession

Michael gave leadership to this important meeting. He wrote the Confession of faith that summarized what these Anabaptists had come to an agreement on relating to baptism, church discipline, the Lord’s Supper, separation from the world, calling pastors, loving enemies, and swearing oaths.

This document, the Schleitheim confession, has had enormous influence on Anabaptists and Mennonite even to this day, as well as other Baptist groups.

After the meeting Sattler was active in the town of Horb giving leadership to an Anabaptist congregation there.

Arrest, trial and death

In March 1527 Michael and Margaretha were arrested in Horb just a short time after the Schleitheim meeting, along with some others. They were moved to Binsdorf to the prison tower. Here Michael wrote a letter to his congregation that was  shaken and afraid of persecution – reminding them to be faithful and not give up.

The trial took place in Rottenburg on May 17-18. They were charged with holding various Anabaptist ideas: For instance that only believers who choose faith for themselves should be baptized; the Lord’s supper is a symbolic meal shared among believers; and not resisting evildoer or swearing oaths as Jesus taught in Matthew 5.

Michael spoke for all the prisoners. He appealed to the Scriptures. He invited teachers to come and said, “If they show us with Holy Scripture that we are in error and wrong, we will gladly retract and recant . . .. But if we cannot be proved in error, I hope to God that you will repent and let yourselves be taught.” (p. 73) The prosecutor responded – “the hangman will dispute with you.” (p. 73)

Rottenburg square

Town square of Rottenburg

When some in the crowed jeered him and asked why he didn’t remain a lord in the monastery, he said, “According to the flesh I would be a lord, but it is better as it is.” (p. 74)

The sentence was given – “Michael Sattler should be given into the hands of the hangman, who shall lead him to the square and then cut off his tongue; then chain him to a wagon, there tear his body twice with red hot tongs; and again when he is brought before the gate, five more times.” (p. 75) After this torture, he was burned alive at the stake on May 20th.

Others among the group recanted. But Margaretha remained steadfast and was drowned in the Neckar river two days later, refusing to recant or even to receive a pardon from a powerful woman.

Neckar river

The Neckar river

Sattler memorial

This a memorial stone in memory of their lives just outside Rottenburg. It says, “they died for their faith.”

They had only been married for, at most, two years, maybe just one. He was a leader and pastor for less than a year.

Now let’s look at –

Several characteristics of faithfulness

– from their lives.

1. They lived their lives by the simple words and example of Jesus.

In Matthew 28:20 Jesus said to the apostles “teach them to observe all that I have commanded you.” They sought to be true to this word of Jesus to observe all that he had commanded them.

  • they had a ministry of preaching the gospel and evangelizing, as Jesus commanded. Even though this could get you killed in their day.
  • they helped build and lead a church made up of believers, as Jesus commanded. And they did this even though this could get you killed in their day.
  • and they loved their enemies as Jesus commanded, even though they were trying to kill them, and eventually did.

They didn’t listen to fancy explanations about how Jesus didn’t really mean what he said; explanations that were given to make people’s lives easier in this world. They were focused on the world to come.

At their trial they asked to be shown from the Scriptures where they were wrong in all this.  The Scriptures guided their lives.

Do you live by the simple words and example of Jesus? Even when it makes you stand out or not fit in?

2. They took up their cross and followed Jesus.

In Mark 8:34 Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” They gave up everything to follow Jesus.

He gave up his status as a lord. They gave up their comfortable lives to serve Jesus; to be in constant danger, on the run and in hiding. They gave up their life together as a married couple. They could have gone off and hid and lived long lives. But they felt compelled to serve Jesus and teach his way.

What have you given up to follow Jesus? How have you denied yourself? How have you sacrificed and accepted suffering to follow him?

3. They faithfully bore witness before hostile authorities.

In Luke 21:12-13 Jesus said, “You will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness.”

Much effort was put into getting them to recant, and many who were with them did. But they remained faithful. They saw their imprisonment as an opportunity to bear witness to Jesus with their words and with their blood.

How are you bearing witness for Jesus? Are you doing this in your much easier circumstances of life? If they can do this while suffering death, can we be more bold when the most that will happen to us is that people will make fun of us?

(I am indebted to The Life and Thought of Michael Sattler, by Arnold Snyder; Quotes come from The Legacy of Michael Sattler, by John H. Yoder)

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We are continuing on in the book of Habakkuk today and for the whole month of June.

Remember with me last time how Habakkuk complained that God wasn’t doing anything about Judah’s sin; about the powerful who were preying upon the weak; about injustice and oppression. Then God answered him that he is raising up the Babylonians to be his instrument of punishment on Judah.

Today we will cover the second interaction between the prophet and God – another complaint and God’s answer.

There are a number of verses to look at today so I will just briefly comment on them as we read through it. There are also some translation issues in this passage that I will not get into, but you can refer to the handout regarding the text I am using.

Habakkuk’s second complaint

“12Are you not from everlasting, O Lord my God, my Holy One? You shall not die. O Lord, you have ordained them as a judgment, and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof.” Babylon is God’s instrument to judge and teach Judah regarding its covenant unfaithfulness.

“13You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at the treacherous and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?” He is saying, since you are a holy God with pure eyes – why do you look without acting, and why do you remain silent when Babylon, who is more sinful than Judah, judges and destroys Judah?

Then we have a poetic picture of the situation, of all the nations that Babylon is overtaking.

People as prey: “14You make people like the fish of the sea, like crawling things that have no ruler.” There is an allusion here to the Genesis account of creation. It is as if humanity has been displaced from having dominion to the place of being like the fish and animals that are hunted, here by the Babylonians.

Net/dragnet: “15He brings all of them up with a hook; he drags them out with his net; he gathers them in his dragnet so he rejoices and is glad.” Babylon is the fisherman.

Net/dragnet: “16Therefore he sacrifices to his net and makes offerings to his dragnet; for by them he lives in luxury, and his food is rich.”

People as prey: “17Is he then to keep on emptying his net and mercilessly killing nations forever?” Will Babylon keep on destroying? God, will you not judge them??

Habakkuk waits

“2:1I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint.”

God’s answer: Judgment is coming

“2And the Lord answered me: ‘Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. 3For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.’”

He is to write the vision down and then to wait for it to come to fulfillment, which it surely will.

Then we have the beginning of the vision.

The arrogant: “4Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him.” Talking about Babylon.

The righteous: “but the righteous shall live by his faith” or faithfulness. In contrast to the arrogant, God’s people are to trust in God’s promises and remain faithful to God – as they wait for the vision to come to pass; as they wait for God to act to save them.

The arrogant: “5Moreover, wine is a traitor, an arrogant man who is never at rest. His greed is as wide as Sheol; like death he has never enough. He gathers for himself all nations and collects as his own all peoples.” Babylon conquers and wants more and more, but never has enough. Like an alcoholic wanting more drink, or Sheol always taking in more and more of the dead.

And then our passage ends with five woes on Babylon. This is the vision that will surely come to pass. A woe came from a funeral setting, for grieving the dead. It was used in oracles of judgment, perhaps because there will be grieving by those who are judged. In each of these their evil is described and there is a reversal that will take place. It begins – “6Shall not all these take up their taunt against him, with scoffing and riddles for him, and say:”

1. They are judged for taking the goods of others. “Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own – for how long? – and loads himself with pledges! 7Will not your debtors suddenly arise, and those awake who will make you tremble?” It is as if they borrowed all the items they stole and now owe them back with interest.

“Then you will be spoil for them. 8Because you have plundered many nations, all the remnant of the peoples shall plunder you, for the blood of man and violence to the earth, to cities and all who dwell in them.” With killing and violence against the earth and destruction of cities they have plundered. So, they will be plundered.

2. They will be judged for killing others to make themselves secure. “9Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house, to set his nest on high, to be safe from the reach of harm! 10You have devised shame for your house by cutting off many peoples; you have forfeited your life. 11For the stone will cry out from the wall, and the beam from the woodwork respond.” Even the material they unjustly took to build their empire will cry out against them. Those who have killed, will be killed.

3. They will be judged for building an empire through killing. “12Woe to him who builds a town with blood and founds a city on iniquity! 13Behold, is it not from the Lord of hosts that peoples labor merely for fire, and nations weary themselves for nothing?” All their work to be great and honored, will be burned, it will come to nothing. (Jeremiah 51:58).

“14For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” In the end, only God’s glory will be left over all the earth. (Isaiah 11:9).

4. They will be judged for violence that shamed people. “15Woe to him who makes his neighbors drink – you pour out your wrath and make them drunk, in order to gaze at their nakedness! 16You will have your fill of shame instead of glory. Drink, yourself, and show your uncircumcision! The cup in the Lord’s right hand will come around to you, and utter shame will come upon your glory! 17The violence done to Lebanon will overwhelm you, as will the destruction of the beasts that terrified them, for the blood of man and violence to the earth, to cities and all who dwell in them.”

They have violently judged others and put them to shame by this. Specifically they destroyed the ancient forests of Lebanon and its animals. For this they will be violently destroyed and shamed.

5. They will be judged for idolatry. “18What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols! 19Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it. 20But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”

An idol is not real. So it is silent; it cannot speak or teach. You can only speak to it. The opposite is true of Yahweh. He is real. And he speaks. And everyone must be silent before him. In this case, all people must be silent before him and learn from him as this judgment unfolds.

A summary of God’s answer. Yes, it is true. Babylon is a worse sinner than Judah. But God will judge Babylon as well for all the evil they do. The righteous must faithfully wait, trusting in God’s promise of this.

And this is what happened. The empire of Babylon was overcome and destroyed some 60 years after God’s promise given here to Habakkuk.

We will look at the theme of the righteous living by faith in the weeks to come, but for now let’s end with some –

Lessons

 – on the theme of God’s judgment. 1. True justice does not always take place on this earth. The wicked often prosper, even at the expense of the righteous – as in this case with Babylon and Judah in our verses. When you look at the world and think that things are not as they should be you are right.

But for everyone, there comes a time for justice; a time of reckoning. Galatians 6:7 says, “we will reap what we sow.” Matthew 16:27 says, the Son of Man is coming and “he will repay each person according to what he or she has done.”

God will see to it that justice reaches every single person who has ever lived. As I said, it reached the people of Babylonia 60 years later – at least in part. And true justice will come in its fullness on the final day.

This is a comfort to the righteous, who suffer injustice – knowing that all things will be made right some day. And it should cause fear to those who do evil.

Getting even more specific, 2. God will judge superpowers for their sins. Babylon was the superpower of its day. And in our verses, it is condemned for a number of things:

  • for being arrogant (2:4-5)
  • for being greedy for more and more wealth and power (2:5)
  • for the pursuit of glory at the expense of shaming others (2:15-17)
  • for trust in and glorification of military might  (1:16)
  • for taking the goods of other smaller nation and then living in luxury (2:6, 8, 9; 1:16)
  • for building its empire by “cutting off many lives” (2:9-10)
  • for killing others for its own sense of security (2:9-10)
  • for violence against the earth, for instance, cutting down the ancient forests of Lebanon and killing its animals (2:17).

We live in the superpower of our day. Now the US is not the same as Babylon was – but there are some parallels. What does this mean for us as God’s people; God’s nation, the church – living as exiles in the midst of this country?

3. God really does punish evildoers. Today many are not comfortable talking about God as “punishing” evildoers. We don’t want God to seem mean or vindictive.

But what we need to understand is that if there is to be justice in the world, then there must be a time of reckoning for all.

And this does not conflict with our call to love our enemies. In fact, it enables us to love our enemies. We can set aside our desire to punish our enemies; to make them pay, and rather act in mercy and love toward them – precisely because we know that God will take care of issues of justice in his own time. As Romans 12:19 indicates, we do not need to seek vengeance because, “vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

William Higgins

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