The traditional importance of non-resistance has shaped a distinctive Anabaptist personality. Early Anabaptists spoke of Gelassenheit, a yieldingness and surrender to God’s will in the face of persecution and martyrdom. Over an extended period of time, however, the Anabaptist’s radical appeal and challenge to the existing Christian society became transformed into a message which cultivated a more sedated or contented personality that emphasized a quiet and nonassertive disposition. The meek personality traits and spiritual virtues had successfully produced a matured doctrine of humility by the twentieth century. Apparently, their theological and personality traits congealed to produce the non-resistant character of Anabaptist life we see today. Self-denial, humility, obedience, meekness, lowliness, forbearance, and separation are the reputed virtues of the Anabaptist character. This last characteristic can be better interpreted as seclusion or isolationism than as Biblical separation, and as a consequence, non-resistance is seen as non-contact and avoidance.
The result of this withdrawal by traditional Anabaptists seems to be that many modern Anabaptists, who along with the rejection of the archaic “Anabaptist” label, also reject non-resistance as archaic, for a more ecumenical activist peacemaking model, especially within city limits. So, the formula set by the early Anabaptists has been rejected in two ways: 1. Non-resistance has come to mean withdrawing from the battle by the conservatives, and 2. Non-resistance has been redefined as pacifistic non-violent activism by modernity.
From an outsider’s viewpoint, it appears that modern American Anabaptism is no closer to fulfilling its mission in the Twenty-first Century than it has been in the last half-millennium. Much good material has been produced about non-resistance but the writing itself has created no threat to the kingdom of darkness. The mixture of modern non-violent activism with the new ecumenism of world religion will likewise produce zero fruit. Without the brave imputes of those who are ready to lay all on the line for the Kingdom we will only, forever, remain exactly where we are at. Conrad Grebel and Michael Sattler left the confines of a stable life and spoke the truth into the darkness of established religion and ignited a fire that burnt brightly for a time, but now lays smoldering under the gross weight of a decaying corpse.
The time is short! If another Michael Sattler exists his time is now. Pray that God would raise up a Michael or a Conrad. Many are waiting for just such a movement.