March 14, 2013

Boasting of a righteous heritage

By Jeff Hochstetler, apartments manager
SCRIPTURE: Philippians 3:4b-14 (NRSV)

Standing at an intersection of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, last summer, I finally saw some German-speaking colony Mennonites. Plainly dressed, many of these Mennonites had come into town to shop and gather supplies to take back to their colony. I had been living in Bolivia for a couple of weeks with an urban, Spanish-speaking Mennonite family. Most of the German-speaking Mennonites lived in rural areas. In contrast, Spanish-speaking Mennonite churches are largely urban. Rarely did the two-different Mennonite groups relate to each other.

Eager to meet some other fellow Mennonites, I was curious about them. Yet as I walked in the market toward some of the German-speakers, I found that none made eye contact with me. I tried to greet another Mennonite next to me, but was met with silence. Bolivian colony Mennonites have had good reason in the past to be wary of outsiders. Still, the cold greeting I received from many that day sharply contrasted with the warm welcome I had received from my host family.

In today’s Scripture, Paul boasts about his righteous heritage. In a twist of irony, Paul’s “boast” clearly becomes a confession – an honest assessment of owning up to past wrongs as a persecutor of the church. Moreover, he writes that past things that he once counted for status he no longer counts as privilege. While Paul acknowledges his mistakes, he does not dwell on them. Instead, Paul seems intent to focus on the transformative power of Christ to adopt us in faith.

SCRIPTURE: Philippians 3:4b-14 (NRSV)
even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh.
If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.



Comments (3)

  1. Thank you, Jeff. you have a way of touching us at the most meaningful spots – those that bewilder or hurt – and need the healing message you bring.

    James March 14, 2013 |
  2. Thanks for the expression regarding the twist of irony: boast that becomes confession… riches that turn out to be rags…

    Elaine Kauffman March 14, 2013 |
  3. Thank you for sharing from your experience. The Colony Mennonites are often used in social media as an example of what is wrong, bad, disapointing, and embarrasing. Simply Youtube Bolivian Mennonites and you will find a plethora of videos by North American mission agencies outlining the dark side of colony life and thought. These people are not unaware of what their North American “cousins” think of them and therefore are suspicious of outsiders. Many colonists tell stories of well meaning North American people telling them how wrong they are and showing them the “right way.” While German colonies have darksides as in any community, including the Spanish speaking Mennonites of Bolivia, it is important to note that hospitality is richly practiced in the colonies. Last year I visited many different colonies and communities, in each place I was invited for meals and a night stay. In Manitoba Colony a friend of mine tongue and cheek asked a man walking down the village road, “Is there a hotel in this colony?” The young man answered, “home in Manitoba is a hotel.” Please don’t judge a whole people based on one experience. Which language was used? High German they do not really speak. Maybe they did not understand Spanish. English most likely they did not speak. Maybe they were like strangers in a strange land on guard so that they are not preyed on by people who see them as naive. Or they were tired of interacting with North Americans who treat them “as heathens,” or their chosen way of life as “rags.”

    Kendel Epp April 1, 2013 |