No theological theme is more central to the Anabaptist Vision or to the historical identity of Mennonites than what H. S. Bender in his famous essay of 1943 called "an ethic of love and nonresistance." The reflections on nonresistance which follow below may be simple or commonplace. But perhaps contemporary Mennonites need to refocus on the simple and the central rather than to state something new. If readers disagree with the above or with the theses that follow that is fine, since this essay is intended to contribute to an ongoing conversation.

The Centrality of "Nonresistance" [1] 

Sociologists Leo Driedger and Donald Kraybill have recently argued:

     Defenselessness and nonresistance have shaped the heart of Mennonite theology over the centuries. The terms capture a cluster of Jesus' instructions in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5)-"resist not evil . . . turn the other cheek . . . go the second mile . . . give away your coat . . . love your neighbor . . . bless them that curse you . . . do good to them that hate you." Nonresistant theology also flows from Paul's writings in Romans (12:14-21): "Bless them that persecute you . . . recompense to no man evil for evil . . . avenge not yourselves . . . for it is written, vengeance is mine . . . if thine enemy hunger, feed him . . . be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." Anchored on these and other scriptures, nonresistance became the Mennonite mode, par excellence, of coping with evil. Rejected were revenge, retaliation, coercion, physical force, and of course participation in military service. Although the concept became embedded in Mennonite history and practice the word nonresistance slipped into common parlance [only] in the second half of the 19th century . . . .[2] 

     Driedger and Kraybill also call attention to Howard Loewen's study of Mennonite confessions, which found that the rejection of revenge was a "most central emphasis" in virtually all of them. Loewen also showed that Mennonites have a "canon within a canon" in which the Sermon on the Mount, especially the verses dealing with nonresistance and love of enemy, have served as an interpretive filter for a Mennonite understanding of scripture generally.[3]  Clearly, one cannot reject peace convictions-specifically those most centrally identified with "nonresistance"-without rejecting something historically central to Mennonite identity.

A Piety and a Personality Shaped by Nonresistance

     Driedger and Kraybill also argue that the traditional emphasis on nonresistance has shaped a distinctive Anabaptist and Mennonite personality. "Early Anabaptists often spoke of Gelassenheit," they note, "a yieldedness and surrender to God's will in the face of persecution and martyrdom." Over the decades and centuries, however, the Anabap-tists' radical challenge to society became transmuted into a culture which "cultivated a modal personality that emphasized a quiet, nonassertive disposition. The meek personality traits, blended with spiritual virtues, emerged into a full-blown doctrine of humility by the mid-nineteenth century. . . . A cluster of theological and personality traits jelled to produce the nonresistant character of Mennonite life. Self-denial, humility, obedience, meekness, lowliness, and forbearance were the esteemed virtues of the Mennonite personality."[4] 

     Driedger and Kraybill interpret the lessened emphasis on nonresistance and the rise of a more activist peacemaking spirit in the years since World War II as resulting from a collision "with the rising tide of individualism, the charm of modernity. To relinquish rights, to turn the other cheek, to suffer insult were unthinkable to modern minds. Nonresistance, to be blunt, was a rather unmodern notion."[5] 

These observations set the context for the series of theses and sub-theses which follow regarding the meaning of nonresistance in Mennonite life and thought today.

     Thesis 1: The piety or spirit of "nonresistance" has both cursed and blessed us. Mennonite appeals to nonresistance sometimes have led to several negative consequences such as quietism, withdrawal or failure to love the neighbor actively-difficulties long acknowledged in Mennonite scholarship. But our commitment to and understanding of nonresistance has permitted other evils to thrive as well-evils connected more to the piety or spirit or personality of nonresistance than to its social ethics. For example, teaching on nonresistance can easily perpetuate a "doormat" view of the self and create feelings of being unvalued, uncared for. It can lead people, particularly women who are socialized to "give of themselves," to accept being devalued or abused in ways which are not "gospel" or "good news."[6] 

     A dogged commitment to nonresistance may also foster the emergence of violence in subtle or unnoticed ways within those who become perpetrators of abuse. "We wonder sometimes," writes Rodney Sawatsky, "if our repression of covert anger has bred a disproportionate amount of abuse among Mennonites."[7] 

     Carolyn Holderread Heggen, a writer, speaker and therapist widely acquainted with sexual abuse across the Mennonite churches, reports that abusers frequently are strong advocates of peace and/or nonresistance.[8]  And in a recent conversation with a Mennonite survivor of sexual abuse I was told that during the years when she was being abused by her father he was a leading advocate of the peace position in his community and actively opposed the introduction of ROTC into the schools. A tenacious commitment to nonresistance may help perpetuate or cause a kind of split personality-one being the meek and mild Mennonite; the other, the tyrant with a violent temper in his own home.

How can these distortions of nonresistance occur: "doormats" on the one hand and "nonresistant" men abusing women and children on the other?

     Thesis 1.1. Nonresistance has become destructive when it has been experienced as a "requirement" either to satisfy a God who threatens one with hell and punishment if one fails to live according to all the demands of the New Testament (including nonresistance) or to satisfy a community which insists on conformity to its rules of nonconformity in order for one to maintain social standing. When nonresistance, or pacifism, grows first out of external pressure to conform to the demands of a judgmental God or a judgmental community, it can easily become a dangerous or violent threat-to oneself or to others. This dynamic is probably more relevant in the case of abusers than in the case of "doormats."[9]  Perhaps I am overly sensitive to the danger and project too much onto others my own difficulty with being consistently the kind of peaceful person I want to be. But I know it is easier to walk as a peacemaker when I know afresh God's graciousness than when I try to do so because I feel I must. For many difficult years I tried to be a good Mennonite pacifist, but with very little personal appropriation of God's graciousness. Even though that graciousness has become far more real to me in the last few years, I routinely slip out of living in awareness of it. The weight of being "good"-especially as extremely and oddly "good" as nonresistance expects us to be-is often more than can be sustained by a sense of duty. That is particularly true for men, for whom the nonresistance ideal contrasts sharply with the way our society defines manhood.

      Perhaps because we have put so much stress on the overcoming of sin-which may correlate perversely with the male societal value of always being in control-we have seldom provided a safe place for people, particularly men, to confess their sins. Since we have too often seen discipleship as something we simply decide to do, and since we have not sufficiently invited God's gracious spirit to touch our brokenness and to transform us, we have almost forced people to live double lives. In the most extreme cases this has meant preaching fervent sermons about peace on Sunday and raping a daughter on Monday. Christ have mercy!

     Thesis 1.2. Nevertheless, there is something crucial about the spirit of nonresistance that ought to be preserved. To abandon nonresistance would be to abandon something with deep roots in the New Testament that has been important for Mennonites throughout their history. Before we too quickly reject nonresistance because of its potential for misunderstanding and abuse, we would do well to pause and think.

     Here I cite stories, vignettes and quotations which remind me of why I do not want to abandon aspects of the piety of nonresistance. These small windows point toward the heart of the Gospel.

     * I think of the song by the first Anabaptist martyr, Felix Manz: "I sing with exultation, all my heart delights in God."[10] 

     * I think of Bishop Kisare in Tanzania writing of his responsibility to address a pastor of the same age but of a different tribe about a sin in his life-and worrying about how to do so. He took with him another man and went to visit, "after much prayer, in a spirit of humility and gentleness. We did not go to him like holy people, but like fellow pilgrims. He received us with great fear. I asked myself, 'Who am I that I should come to this man with this word?' I honored him in how I approached him and he in turn honored me in how he received my word."[11] 

* I think of the Mennonite Jaques Mesdag writing to his wife two months before he was burned at the stake in 1567:

     O my dear chosen sister whom I love so greatly with all my heart, I should not be able to describe to you, I think, with what true, unfeigned godly and brotherly love I love you . . . . [Yet] I am still willing to resign my life for Him who gave it me, if it shall come to this; and again, if it be His divine will, that I am to remain in iron bonds yet for a long time, I will also gladly suffer it for His holy name; for He suffered so much for us. . . . Eternal praise, glory and thanks to the Lord, for His abundant grace and mercy.[12] 

     * I remember the Anabaptist Dirk Willems returning to rescue his pursuer who had fallen through thin ice, only to be recaptured and then executed. I remember telling his story to a class of about 150 Harvard political science undergraduates. I remember how odd or crazy Dirk seemed to most of them; and how much he seemed like a saint to me.

     * I remember the Mennonite who, when asked how he had decided to be a conscientious objector, said that "he never had to make a definite decision as to whether he would practice nonconformity and separation when his number was called in World War II for he had developed his conviction all through life . . . ." He said further that when he was a child

     he was taught to love his brothers and sisters and that he memorized short Bible verses on the subject of love. When he went to school his parents told him not to fight back but rather to love his schoolmates. When he united with the Mennonite church he again was taught the principle of nonconformity and separation, and joining the church meant that he would live differently from society as a whole in all aspects of life. When he went into business he placed the Golden Rule on the wall of his garage and tried to practice it in his dealings with his customers. If people refused to pay their bills he forgave them rather than taking the matter to the law. He said that when his questionnaire arrived during the second world war he did not have a decision to make as to what approach to take for he had done this throughout his entire life.[13] 

     * I remember reading Christian Burkholder writing in 1792 on the costs of living in a "state of uncharitableness" with another Christian, and Burkholder saying that "it would only cost a little of your pride and self-righteousness" to make peace. I remember saying to myself, "But it's mainly his fault." I continued to read Burkholder: "But perhaps you say the fault is not in you but in your neighbor. But your neighbor speaks the same language. . . . It is not said that you should demand love of your neighbor, but that you should love him."[14] 

I am challenged by the spirit of nonresistance to put down my pride, to be less defensive of myself and my rights, to give more generously of myself to others, to regard others charitably, to confront others only with fear and trembling, to see my troubles in the light of others' sufferings and of God's provision.

     Thesis 2. Commitment to the way of peace or to authentic nonresistance, which is not simply passivity or resignation or feeling inferior or marginalized, must be rooted in personal experiences of God's graciousness so that peace is lived as free response to a gift, not as a duty imposed either by a dreadful God or by the expectations of a judgmental, watchful community.[15]  Peace must be rooted in experiences of the wind of the Spirit blowing refreshingly through our lives. "In God's presence," writes Alan Kreider, "we will see ourselves as we are, as flawed and finite, yet infinitely loved. And our spirits will leap in response to God."[16]  This responsive "leaping" toward God is what, most centrally, enables nonresistance. Let's face it. Loving enemies is "an unnatural act." As Kreider observes, Jesus only dared to command his followers to love their enemies "because they had experienced . . . God's living force. . . . [God] will empower them to do something that goes against all their reflexes-to love their enemies."[17]  To try to love enemies without that encounter with the Holy One is to invite shipwreck.

     This central point has often been obscured in recent Mennonite life and thought-not really denied but too often taken for granted or avoided because of the dangers of distortion which come along with some forms of evangelical "piety." On these points I support fully the concerns raised by Stephen Dintaman in "The Spiritual Poverty of the Anabaptist Vision."[18] 

     Thesis 2.1. The early Anabaptists were motivated first and foremost by encounters with God, encounters which transformed them primarily "from the inside out." The Anabaptist martyrs did not choose the paths they took or face the suffering they faced simply because they read the New Testament, were intellectually convinced and said, "Yes, Jesus said we should be his disciples, that we should follow him in all aspects of life, including taking up the cross." What led the Anabaptists to their kinds of lives was not first a literal, straightforward reading of the texts, and then a decision to follow the texts. Change was not "simply a matter of seeing a better way and deciding to do it," as Dintaman suggests we have been led to believe by "The Anabaptist Vision."[19]  Rather, what changed them was an encounter with God.

     In An Introduction to Anabaptist History and Theology, historian Arnold Snyder emphasizes that encountering God existentially was central for the Anabaptists. He concludes that by the end of the sixteenth century there had been substantial "modifications" in the Anabaptist movement of "the earlier broad 'core' beliefs." The most significant modification was

     the gradual disappearance of the early pneumatic emphasis. . . . It is not an overstatement to say that early Anabaptist pneumatology was the sine qua non of the movement. The appeal to an active working of the Holy Spirit in believers was the bedrock upon which rested anticlericalism and anti-sacramentalism . . . . Likewise the "letter of the scripture" remained a "dead letter" if it were not interpreted in the power of the Holy Spirit. And again, the life of discipleship which led to salvation rested upon the regenerative activity of the Holy Spirit, which made discipleship possible. . . . The emergence of Anabaptism as a church renewal movement would not have taken place apart from the pneumatological rationale and impulse that underlay its more "visible" features.[20] 

     Snyder argues that "as the sixteenth century progressed, the general tendency in the surviving movement-the part of the movement that passed on the believers' church 'tradition'-was thus to limit or even suppress pneumatic expression: . . . conformity to outer rules of behavior took priority over experiences of inner regeneration."[21] 

     Thesis 2.2. The Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition generally has been impoverished and distorted by a focus on outward behavior at the expense of inward encounter with God. If Snyder is right, the problem which Dintaman raises in regard to the "spiritual poverty" of the Anabaptist Vision is not really as uniquely characteristic of the "post-Anabaptist Vision" generation as it is characteristic of the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition as a whole. In general, we have undervalued and undernourished personal renewal through encounters with God. In general, we have relied too much on external expectations and too little on seeking encounters with God's transforming spirit, which can create disciples from the inside out.

     Thesis 2.3. We need to learn from traditions which stress the Spirit and a sustained personal awareness of God. If thesis 2.2. is correct, it is not surprising that in Anabaptism/Mennonitism, a movement with such high ethical expectations, there is a constant openness-some have argued, a temptation-to Pietism and revivalism. Only through the personal knowledge of God which these movements aim to foster, albeit sometimes in narrow or distorted ways, can the burdens of discipleship based on external expectations become a welcoming invitation to walk toward Godlikeness.[22]  Perhaps it is no coincidence that Pietism found its most fertile ground in heavily Anabaptist areas, for it shared many of Anabaptism's ideals. More important, it offered a way to live toward them joyfully rather than dutifully.[23]  If this is no coincidence, we in the Anabaptist tradition should embrace Pietism's basic concern for fostering life-transforming experiences with God. At the same time we might continue to testify-with humility induced by awareness of the beams in our own eyes-that this transformation must reach into spheres, such as economics and self-protection, which those in pietist traditions too often place outside the sphere of transformation. And we should also caution that these encounters dare not be limited to once-in-a-lifetime, datable, dramatic conversions.

     Thesis 2.4. Part of the reason for a relative lack of a piety which enables authentic nonresistance is our fear, our unwillingness to risk our security. If deeper piety is needed, so too is a willingness to follow when God speaks and asks us to do something risky. Without this willingness, genuine piety dies.

     I hear truth in the words of Alan Kreider: "We are far more likely to meet the Holy One when we are living in faithful insecurity than when we are clinging to human security. God's power is not made perfect in us when we are powerful; it is when we are weak (2 Cor. 12:9-10). . . . It is in our weakness (and nowhere else) that we will know his empowering and become his instruments."[24] 

     The decline in emphasis on the Spirit among the Anabaptists occurred as security and stability increased. It is therefore sobering to note how much more secure we are than most Mennonites were in the late sixteenth century. Our wealth and security are crucial stumbling blocks on the path toward genuine Christian piety, for they make it harder to follow. "When God reveals to us his living force," writes Kreider,

     he is inviting us to keep moving, to stay on the road that leads to his Holy City. If we refuse his invitation, our experiences of holiness will not recur. We can sing our choruses louder and longer; we can contemplate with ever greater abandon. But if we do not allow God to go on changing us, we will not experience his living force. Deep in ourselves we will know the dryness of his silence.[25] 

     Often we need, not something grand, but the small step which leads only a bit down the path . . . and then another step and another. In taking such small steps, one after another, we gradually learn that we can trust God for our security and well-being and we come to experience God more deeply-all the while moving, almost imperceptibly, toward greater Godlikeness.

Listen again to Jesus: "Be not afraid."

     Thesis 3. God's forgiving, pardoning, bountiful grace receives us as sinners and draws us toward Godlikeness, allowing a bold nonresistance. It is a mistake to pit grace as forgiveness or pardon against grace as empowerment, as, for example, Reinhold Niebuhr does in his classic essay "Why the Christian Church Is Not Pacifist." Niebuhr contends that the "good news of the gospel is not the law that we ought to love one another" (the basic mistake of liberal pacifism, in his view) but that "there is a resource of divine mercy which is able to overcome a contradiction within our own souls . . . . This contradiction is that, though we know we ought to love our neighbor as ourself, there is a 'law in our members which wars against the law that is in our mind,' so that, in fact, we love ourselves more than our neighbor." He notes that grace can be legitimately regarded as "an actual 'power of righteousness' which heals the contradiction within our hearts," presumably meaning that the contradiction is healed by actually coming to love our neighbor as ourself. But he stresses an opposite understanding, grace "as 'justifi- cation,' as pardon rather than power, as the forgiveness of God," which we receive even though we never achieve "the full measure of Christ."[26] 

     Thesis 3.1. We should embrace and stress a classical "Protestant" understanding of grace as pardon. A sustainable, healthy pacifist commitment depends upon an experiential as well as a conceptual understanding of salvation as a free gift of grace from God which we never deserve. We are saved because of God's gracious, forgiving character. Salvation is something we are given, not something we merit and not even something we attain through God's grace transforming us until we somehow become acceptable. When we realize that we are given our salvation, even our life, freely out of God's abundant generosity, we have less need to grasp our life tightly and protectively. And since we do not deserve even our life-in the sense of having earned it-we have no "right" to defend it.

     Rather than first of all responding to someone like Niebuhr by emphasizing grace as the source for ethical transformation as I have often done, we should say a hearty "Amen!" to Niebuhr's affirmation of the priority of grace as pardon. We might heed the words of the nineteenth-century American Mennonite leader John M. Brenneman, reflecting on our great indebtedness to God: "But God will remit it out of pure grace, if we but with true penitence of heart humble ourselves before him and confess our sins before him, feel sorry on account of them, and from our heart pray to him in the name of Jesus for pardon; then 'he giveth grace' to us."[27] 

     We might say, in addition, that such a classical "Protestant" conception of grace finds its deepest expression in nonresistance, as an openhanded, nondefensive response of gratitude to God's lavish generosity. We have not created whatever value our life has and we have no need to defend it. The One who has given us all we have and are can also be relied upon to protect us. There is thus no necessary opposition to a classical conception of grace from those committed to nonresistance. Rather, nonresistance depends upon us always seeing grace as a free gift, as a pardon for us in our undeservingness.

     Thesis 3.2. Experiencing God's graciousness in our undeservingness transforms us. Of course, this does not mean that grace is not transformative. Surely it is. Nevertheless if, like Niebuhr, we see these aspects of grace as somehow opposing one another, or in tension with one another, we have missed the point. We do not need to choose one end of a continuum or the other, as if they were opposites locked into a zero-sum relationship with one another. Rather, when we experience and appropriate deeply into our beings the fact of God's bounty and goodness to us, first in our literal nothingness (i.e., God created us, we did not) and then in our undeservingness (i.e., we fail to love our neighbors as ourselves), we cannot help but find ourselves being made over. Though choices are involved, this is not something we first of all choose. Rather it is something we respond to. It is like falling in love-it happens to us. To be sure, we choose to respond. But the more we see the attractiveness of the life offered to us by the One who-amazingly, surprisingly-loves us, the One who loves us as we are, yet beckons us to transformation, the less responding feels like a hard choice and the more it feels like a wonderful invitation that we would impoverish ourselves by refusing. In other words, the correlation between these two aspects of grace is a positive rather than a negative one: as the experience of grace as pardon grows, so also grows the transformative power of grace. As the awareness of our indebtedness to God and of God's generosity in dealing with our indebtedness deepens, our love of God grows. Then we find ourselves longing to make our lives pleasing to God, not because we must do so in order to receive God's love, but because we want to do so, just as we want to make our lives pleasing to others whose love we receive and whom we love in return.

     Thesis 3.3. The fact that we do not deserve God's goodness, that we are literally nothing without God creating us, that we are continually in need of God's pardon, but that God nevertheless extends grace to us when we do not deserve it, strengthens our assurance that we are of immeasurable value. Some critics of this view of God's grace fear that stressing our undeservingness leads us to have little appreciation for ourselves and to devalue ourselves. A "worm" theology undermines health. Similarly, traditional understandings of Mennonite nonresistance have been criticized for teaching us that we are not valuable-that we are "doormats." For example, this view may convince us that we ought not in any way resist violation.[28] 

     Clearly this temptation to undervalue ourselves is a real problem for some, and certain understandings of nonresistance may indeed have contributed to it. Stressing our undeservingness without also stressing God's bounteous love is devastating. To proclaim our unworthiness while also proclaiming that God will grudgingly accept us only if we live up to every standard of the Christian calling is a recipe for disaster, especially if we are told that living up to God's demands means that we must "nonresistantly" allow others to abuse us.

     But a stress on our undeservingness can and should work this way: when we receive a great honor or a lavish gift from a friend, we know that we are "undeserving," just as we know we are undeserving in relation to God's goodness. Yet although receiving a great honor or a lavish gift humbles us, and in that way makes us feel unworthy, it also makes us feel deeply valued, loved, appreciated and cared for. Grace given as a free gift means that we are of great value, that we are loved with a lavishness that we can never fully comprehend. Coming to understand how much we are loved, not because of our deserving but in spite of our having not "earned" that love, undergirds and strengthens our sense of our own incredible value. We are freed from feelings of self-hatred or self-loathing. Someone very special takes delight in us, loves us! Yet, when we understand what is happening, we remain humble. We have not earned this love. It is a gift.

     Perhaps another analogy will help. When we are children we feel we "deserve" everything we want from our parents; it is our "right" to have what all of our friends have! When we become adult children, if we come from healthy families, we come to realize that we are loved by our parents in a way that we did not and do not deserve. We did not earn their love. We exist because they wanted to give the gift of life. All we did was to arrive, naked and screaming! They responded-amazingly, graciously-by loving and valuing and caring for us in ways deeper than we can ever understand. As we come to glimpse the depth of our parents' love for us and to realize that their love exists whether or not we act as they want us to act, we come to want to live lives pleasing to them. We do so not because they demand it or because we feel we must, but because doing so is a small gift we can offer in response to their great gifts-and because, if we are from healthy families, we come increasingly to see that the sort of life they want us to live is also the sort of life which will be best, richest for us.

     Thesis 3.4. Through this process of being loved into knowing our immeasurable value we become unapologetic and unafraid. Because we know how much we are valued we are enabled to stand firm, without apology or embarrassment. We can be bold, forthright, daring. When we see suffering we can speak and act directly, and intervene imaginatively. We can risk taking ourselves out of our comfortable settings and standing with those on the margins.

     At the same time, because we know that we are undeserving and yet are confident that we are valued, we need not keep careful track to make sure that "justice" is done to us, to insist that we are given "due" recognition, or to demand that our "rights" be respected. The gift of this unselfconscious, "bold but gentle" way of being in the world, a gift which some of us are given-to a greater or lesser degree-by healthy families, is offered to all of us by God. As we appropriate the reality of our undeservingness and of God's boundless grace, we come to a personality or piety which retains some of the virtues of a "nonresistant" piety while avoiding the deep sense of inferiority and self-deprecation which seems to lurk within many Mennonites.

     Thus far, I have stressed the centrality of the inner transformation needed to facilitate a joyful, authentic, voluntary "nonresistance." But to leave the matter here would be too individualistic. There is another part of the story-the community. Although I cannot develop the point extensively here, I conclude with a final thesis on the kind of church which is essential if we are to be enabled in the ways I have been suggesting.

     Thesis 4. The most important way we as a church can strengthen commitment to nonresistance is to strengthen our worship life. "Once we get a glimmer of true holiness," Alan Kreider suggests, "our almost reflexive response will be praise and worship."[29]  That "almost reflexive response" is the central work of the church. I agree with Kreider: "As God's holy nation, it is worship that keeps us on course. . . . What happens when we come together in his presence? For one thing, we recognize the one who is in charge. 'The Lord is King,' we declare as we gather." We take our rightful place, on our knees, and we put other loyalties in their rightful place. "Second, when we gather we remember and give thanks." We recall the stories of God's people, and integrate our little stories into the big story. "Third, when we gather we express our needs." We offer God our cares, our sins. "Because we have a rich history, we can do so in trust." We know God will provide, that we are safe with God. "Finally, we gather to meet God."[30]  We come inviting the presence of the Holy One, seeking the wind of the Spirit.

Furthermore, in worship, and in other less formal encounters with sisters and brothers where we speak to one another earnestly about our faith, we are reminded of what we really want, once we have begun to encounter the Holy One.

     Can we somehow always live fully aware of God's presence, having been fully transformed, always wanting to do what we know we ought to do? For most of us-certainly for me-this is not the case. I constantly need to be reminded by brothers and sisters what my first love is, what I really want, so that what I want in a passing moment does not divert me from pursuing what I really want-a walk toward God. I need the church to school me in practices and habits that it knows will deepen my first love. I need the church to provide me with guidelines, pointers-perhaps even rules-which can serve as markers along the path toward God. I need the church to tell me when I wander from the path. I need the church as a place where I can confess my wandering, my sin. I need the church to pick me up, to help me start on the path again. In worship, both in large groups and with a few intimate friends, these things can happen. And in worship I am reminded of my need for these things to happen.

     In this context of worship we come to know the truth, including ethical truth. Most important, we come to know that we can trust God. We come to worship . . . and then we leave. We leave surprised to find ourselves-slowly, painfully, partially but genuinely-being made "nonresistant" from the inside out. We become nonresistant because we come to know the truth of Paul's words in Romans 8:

     Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35, 37-39)

As we receive that knowledge of God's love we will be able to receive as good news Paul's other words, familiar words for Mennonites:

     Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

[*] Ted Koontz is Professor of Ethics and Peace Studies at the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary (Elkhart, Ind.). 1. My use of the term "nonresistance" is not intended to be an argument for that particular terminology. I use "nonresistance" because I am responding, however indirect-ly, to Harold Bender's "The Anabaptist Vision" which used this rubric and because it became the most common way to speak of traditional Mennonite ways of understanding our peace commitment. Bender's "The Anabaptist Vision" first appeared in print in Church History 13 (March, 1944), 3-24 and then in a slightly revised form in MQR 28 (April, 1944), 69-88 and in Guy F. Hershberger, ed., The Recovery of the Anabaptist Vision (Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press, 1957), 29-54. Return to Text

[2] . Leo Driedger and Donald B. Kraybill, Mennonite Peacemaking: From Quietism to Activism (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1994), 23. Return to Text

[3] . Ibid., 30. Return to Text

[4] . Ibid., 51. For the theme of humility among nineteenth-century American Menno-nites, see Joseph C. Liechty, "Humility: The Foundation of the Mennonite Religious Outlook in the 1860s," MQR 54 (Jan., 1980), 5-31, and Theron F. Schlabach, Peace, Faith, Nation: Mennonites and Amish in Nineteenth-Century America (Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press, 1988), 51-52 and passim. Return to Text

[5] . Driedger and Kraybill, Mennonite Peacemaking, 52. Return to Text

[6] . Some attention has been given to this crucial issue; it is an issue which can best be dealt with by women.-Elizabeth G. Yoder, ed., Peace Theology and Violence Against Women, Occasional Papers No. 16 (Elkhart, Ind.: Institute of Mennonite Studies, 1992). Return to Text

[7] . Rod J. Sawatsky, "Where in the World? Mennonite Colleges and Nonconformity" (paper prepared for the conference "Mennonite Higher Education: Experience and Vision," Bluffton College, June 1992), 15. Return to Text

[8] . Personal conversation with Holderread Heggen. Return to Text

[9] . Following Theses 3.3 and 3.4 I write about some of the issues related to the problem of "doormats." Return to Text

[10] . Hymnal: A Worship Book (Elgin, Ill.: Brethren Press, 1992), 438. Return to Text

[11] . Quoted in J. Craig Haas, Readings From Mennonite Writings New and Old (Intercourse, Pa.: Good Books, 1992), 232. Return to Text

[12] . Quoted in ibid., 294. Return to Text

[13] . Paul Rickert Shelly, Religious Education and Mennonite Piety Among the Mennonites of Southeastern Pennsylvania, 1870-1943 (Newton, Kan.: Mennonite Publication Office, 1950), 99-100. Return to Text

[14] . Quoted in Haas, Readings from Mennonite Writings, 78. Return to Text

[15] . This is a central theme of Alan Kreider's book, Journey Towards Holiness (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1987), 38 and passim. "Encountering a living force," writes Kreider, is basic to all else. Return to Text

[16] . Ibid., 42. Return to Text

[17] . Ibid., 164. Return to Text

[18] . Stephen F. Dintaman, "The Spiritual Poverty of the Anabaptist Vision," The Conrad Grebel Review 10 (Spring 1992), 205-08. Return to Text

[19] . Ibid., 206. Return to Text

[20] . C. Arnold Snyder, An Introduction to Anabaptist History and Theology (Kitchener, Ont.: The author, 1994), 389. Return to Text

[21] . Ibid., 390. I was made aware of the centrality of the inner experience of God among the Anabaptists both by Snyder's conclusions and by re-reading stories of early Anabaptists, where a lively encounter with God is a central motivating force. This emphasis on inner experience has been absent from previous interpretations. For a summary of the scholarship, see Calvin Redekop, "The Community of Scholars and the Essence of Ana-baptism," MQR 61 (Oct. 1993), 429-50. Return to Text

[22] . This term I borrow from Alan Kreider, who suggests that when we encounter God "the Holy One will be changing us so that we more and more reflect his character."-Journey Towards Holiness, 41. Return to Text

[23] . "Historically, Pietism emerged when much of the zeal had departed from the Anabaptist movement, flourishing best on Anabaptist soil and finding strength in Anabaptist strongholds such as Wurttemberg. The common people often used the names Pietists and Anabaptists synonymously."-Dale Brown, Understanding Pietism (Grand Rap-ids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1978), 19-20. Brown defines the central theological motifs of Pietism as: (1) a concern for the reformation of the church; (2) emphasis on the Bible; (3) "The insistence that the reformation of doctrine which was inaugurated by Luther must be carried over into the reformation of life. Orthodoxy must be accompanied by orthopraxis (right living)"; (4) a theology of experience. "Martin Schmidt and others have maintained that the heart of Pietist theology is its focus on regeneration. Pietists strongly emphasized that the God who is good enough to forgive us is powerful enough to change us"; (5) hope for the world.-Brown, Understanding Pietism, 27-28. Return to Text

[24] . Kreider, Journey Towards Holiness, 268-69. Return to Text

[25] . Ibid., 226. Return to Text

[26] . Reinhold Niebuhr, Christianity and Power Politics (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1940), 2-3. Return to Text

[27] . Quoted in Haas, Readings from Mennonite Writings, 334. Return to Text

[28] . See, e.g., Carol Penner, "Content to Suffer," in Yoder, ed., Peace Theology and Violence Against Women. Return to Text

[29] . Kreider, Journey Towards Holiness, 42. Return to Text

[30] . Ibid., 266-68. The Mennonite Quarterly Review Nonresistance as Piety