By President Randall A. Bach
We recognize Old Order, or traditional, Amish people by their lifestyles. They live on farms clumped together in rural communities and dress in attire like that of 17th century peasants. The Amish, as I will refer to them here, are fascinating people. They are known to eschew electricity, telephones, and other modern conveniences. They rely on horses and buggies for transportation, farm with horses providing power instead of modern implements, and are renowned for their craftsmanship with wood, sewing, and other arts that require skilled and experienced hand labor.
Old Order Amish are generally respected for their quiet lifestyle that can appear as a nostalgic throwback in history. When among their own, the Amish speak variations of German dialects mixed with English, which explains why they often speak English with accents. Although they are willing to have pictures taken of their places and handiwork, they forbid having pictures taken of themselves because they believe that would be a violation of the Second Commandment against making graven images.
The Amish began as Mennonites and are still generally considered part of a broader Mennonite or Anabaptist community with a similar foundation of beliefs. However, the Amish pulled away from the Mennonites because of the controversial teachings and extreme separationist views of Jakob Ammann (c. 1644-c.1730) in Switzerland and southern Germany. Those teachings included rules of excommunication that called for family and social shunning of people who strayed from strict adherence to Amish beliefs and practices.*
David and Malinda Borntreger of Northwood, Iowa, have been shunned by their close family members, extended family, and their entire Amish culture and community in which they were raised. They were entirely cut off from the life and loved ones they knew. Why? Because they dared to embrace teaching about a personal relationship with Christ as primary in their lives over Amish dictates. What a heavy price the Borntregers are paying: children ostracized from their parents and grandchildren cut off from grandparents. It is difficult to imagine how painful the experience of shunning is. Members of First Church of the Open Bible in Clear Lake, Iowa, have encircled this family with adoption-like love. If you have not read the story of this family or seen the video interview with David and Malinda, please do so below.
What does it personally cost you to believe in, know, and serve Jesus Christ? I am going to take a guess here that it does not begin to compare with what the Borntreger family is experiencing. Christians in America significantly gave shape to our government, principles, freedoms, and way of life for our nation. However, a change has been occurring over recent decades, so much so that perhaps we ought to take note of the level of David and Linda’s commitment in the face of judgment and alienation by their home culture. While we must take care not to exaggerate or embellish facts, followers of Jesus who are committed to believing and adhering to biblical truth and commands are increasingly finding their home culture, particularly governing authorities and courts, attempting to judge and shun them, to punish them for daring to hold to and abide by anything other than secularist dogma.
Peter wrote to new believers, instructing them to live as free people without using freedom as a cover for evil intent. He encouraged them to submit to authority. He even specifically stated that slaves (slavery legally existed at that time) should submit respectfully to their masters. Peter continued on to discuss the importance of enduring suffering, explaining that if suffering comes as a result of doing good, then to endure that suffering is pleasing to God. Peter wanted readers to understand that serving Christ can be costly. In fact, he exclaimed, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21, NIV). We should defend our liberties, hard fought for by others. However, it is also timely to remind ourselves what God’s Word says regarding the cost of following Christ, including in America. David and Malinda Borntreger are experiencing that cost firsthand. Will you please take a moment now to pray for the Borntreger family? Pray for strength, continued courage, grace, and for deeply fulfilling relationships with their new church family. “Lord, may we all please you in how we respond to suffering because of our belief in you and because we are following you and your Word.”
*Source: Encyclopedia Britannica