by Gwen Shaw
There is only one thing that can unite the children of the Lord. It is the Glory of God.
One of Jesus’ last prayers to the Heavenly Father was that all of God’s children might be one. His prayer, which so deeply touches our hearts and convicts us of our lack of unity still rings out across the ages, clear and strong. It is impossible to misinterpret its meaning. Let us read it again. It is found in John 17:20-23, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the GLORY which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.”
Jesus’ Prayer Will Be Answered in the Glory
Four times in these three verses Jesus prayed that we may be ONE. This is no ordinary unity, because Jesus likened it to the same kind of oneness that He had with His Heavenly Father.
He mentions that it would be this oneness that would prove to the unbelievers and the lost that Jesus is the Son of God. It is the division and the strife between churches that causes many unbelievers to turn away from God and run from the church. They see our lack of love one for the other, and they think, “They talk about love, but they don’t have any.”
When Jesus makes that marvelous statement, “The glory which thou gavest me, I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one…” He reveals that it is the Glory of God that unites us and makes us ONE. It is when we lose the Glory that we begin to be separated one from the other, because without the Glory we lose the touch of God that is on our lives, and resume our carnal state which soon reduces us to the same old unlovable characters we had been before we professed that we had been converted and born again. It is by our fruits that man and God shall know what we truly are, whether it be Christlike in love and compassion, or fighting, quarreling, argumentative and divisive troublemakers.
Satan Is the Destroyer of Unity and Love
There are many things that can divide and separate us, but the devil is behind them all. Sin plays a great part in bringing division.
SATAN divided the angels in Heaven, and seduced one third of the angels to rebel against the Almighty God. When he was cast to earth he attacked God’s creation. He still does the same today, causing much pain and heartache to husbands and wives, families, pastors and their flocks, and wherever he can influence a weak character to do wrong.
ADAM AND EVE were ONE with their Heavenly Father in Paradise until they sinned. Sin separated them from God and even brought division between them; we know this because Adam blamed Eve, and even God, for giving him a wife like that, for his disobedience to the Lord’s commandment, “And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat” (Genesis 3:12).
CAIN AND HIS BROTHER ABEL, the only two lads on the earth at that time, should have been the best of pals, loving each other and working together in love and unity because there was no third person to separate them, yet Cain allowed such great jealousy and anger to fill his heart that one day he slew his brother. The sad thing is that he didn’t even feel any remorse.
ABRAHAM HAD TWO SONS, ISHMAEL AND ISAAC, by two different wives. Ishmael’s mother, because of her rejection and pain, imparted her grief and anger into the heart of her son, Ishmael. It ended with separation and anger which has continued until today and is the cause of the strife between their descendants.
ISAAC AND REBEKAH’S SONS, ESAU AND JACOB seem to have striven against each other from their mother’s womb (Genesis 25:22).
JOSEPH, THE SON OF JACOB, was rejected by his brothers because they were jealous of their father’s love for Joseph.
THE FAMILY OF DAVID was so divided that it caused many tragedies. One son, ABSALOM, killed his brother, AMNON, because he had raped his half-sister, TAMAR (2 Samuel 13:1-20). Later ABSALOM committed treason against his father, King DAVID, and almost succeeded in gaining the throne. His life ended in a tragic death (2 Samuel 15-18). Another son, ADONIJAH, committed treason by making himself king, in spite of his father’s proclamation that Solomon would succeed him on the throne of Israel. He too died a tragic death by assassination (1 Kings 1:5-53; 2:13-27).
All through the Bible there are stories of families, friends and nations that were divided by strife.
Even Israel Was Divided into Two Nations
No story is more sad than the dividing of ISRAEL into two nations, JUDAH, in the South, and the ten tribes, under the ruling tribe of EPHRAIM, in the north. This terrible division of the servants of Solomon took place because his son, and heir, to the kingdom, REHOBOAM, dealt harshly with his people by demanding higher taxes, which they were unable to pay. As a result they chose themselves another king, JEROBOAM (1 Kings 12:3-19). This story ends with a divided kingdom as is written, “So Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day” (1 Kings 12:19).
During the reign of King David, and his son Solomon, Israel had its greatest and most peaceful years. The magnificent Temple of the Lord was built, and the Lord’s people came up to Jerusalem three times a year to celebrate the great Feasts of the Lord. They were days of singing, worshipping, bringing their gifts and sacrifices to the Lord of all the earth. The music was the closest to heavenly music that the world had ever known, as the great choirs sang the Psalms of David. The unity amongst God’s people was described in Psalm 133:1-3, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.”
Israel was truly one nation under God, one religion, one vision for the future as they met together in one place to worship the Lord.
With the dividing of Israel into two separate kingdoms, those wonderful days were over, when all Israel, from Dan to Beersheba had celebrated the great Feasts of Israel, and met together in loving fellowship at the magnificent golden Temple in Jerusalem.
Jeroboam, the king who had broken away from Judah was clever enough to see that if his people continued to go up to Jerusalem to worship Jehovah at the great Feasts of Israel, it would not be long before they would again be united with the tribe of Judah. The Bible states, “And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David: If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah. Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan. And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan” (1 Kings 12:25-29). He went so far as to build “temples” for the purpose of housing his golden calves. He ordained “priests” who were not of the tribe of Levi, even some of the “lowest people” and then he ordained a feast in the eighth month. It was man’s substitute for the real thing. Satan always imitates the things of God.
When people cannot meet together in the House of the Lord, it is a sad and tragic state of affairs. Jesus said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand” (Matthew 12:25).
Today there is desolation in many churches, denominations, and even in all of Christendom, because of the schisms and divisions amongst us.
The Early Church Had Unity
The Early Church was a united church. The Book of Acts records, “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all” (Acts 4:32-33).
But history records that after some time the Church was divided as more and more Gentiles were added, and the Judaizers tried to enforce Mosaic laws upon them, such as circumcision, dietary laws, the observance of certain times, “Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years” (Galatians 4:10) and the keeping of the traditions of men. This was not the Gospel Paul had preached, which was given to him by the revelation of the Holy Spirit.
As the Gentiles became Christians in larger numbers than the Jews, the division grew, and before many years the Jewish believers were not welcomed by the Church. After a time it became a totally Gentile Church which finally persecuted the Jews even unto death, as is recorded in the history of the Russian pogroms and the Spanish inquisition. Neither did France, Germany, nor England, and some of the other nations show the love of God to the Jews, even though these nations were Christian. It culminated in the horrible massacre of six million Jews under the Nazi regime.
Something Has Happened!
BUT SOMETHING HAS HAPPENED! Many Christians are finding that God is giving them a love for Israel and the Jewish people. Is it because the Lord God is answering the prayers of His Jewish SON, JESUS, Who prayed, “that they all might be ONE.” In these last days, which the prophets have spoken about in the Old Testament, is the Almighty Whom both we and the Jews worship, uniting us together. This miracle of solidarity with Israel is not created at the Ecumenical Tables of long discussions. It is a work of the Holy Spirit, and comes by revelation.
But, it saddens my heart to see that not all the Church is experiencing this “awakening.” It is only happening among born-again believers; and then not all of them are experiencing this “new love.” Some still believe that the Lord is finished with the Jew, and that the Church has replaced Israel. They feel this gives them an excuse to persecute them.
An Even Greater Division Came into the Church in the Days of the Reformation
As the Holy Spirit began to deal with a backslidden Church that had become very sinful (even its leaders were living unholy lives), some of their people began to search for truth. Among them were men like Martin Luther, who searched for it in the entire Bible, which had been kept from the ordinary Church members. A great hunger for the Word of God was stirred up in the hearts of the people of the Church. As the Holy Spirit anointed a German, by the name of Johannes Gensfleisch Gutenburg (?1395-1468), to invent a printing machine that worked by movable type, (later called the Gutenberg Press), the Word of God in the German language was printed and distributed in larger and larger quantities and smuggled into European countries. This was a difficult thing to do because the complete Bibles were very large.
My Roman Catholic Forefathers
It was one of these Bibles that found its way into the hands of my Roman Catholic forefathers in Carinthia, Austria in the early 1700’s. The story of their joy at being able to read the Word of God, and the resulting persecution that followed, has been faithfully recorded by one of my ancestors, Johannes Waldner, who was still a very young lad, when he began his journal.
“Around 1750 there was a great awakening and interest in the teachings of Martin Luther in the southeastern part of Austria, around the villages, and towns of Gmund, Millstatt, Spittal, Villah, Amlach and Feldkirchen.
“Austria at this time was out-and-out Catholic, and no Lutheran, Reformed, or other Protestant was to be tolerated or permitted to stay in this area. All of the customs and ceremonies of the Roman Catholic Church were diligently practiced and observed. The people were very sincere and zealous in their devotion to their religion, but the common man did not have access to the Bible. It was strictly forbidden to own a Bible and the common people were supposed to believe what the priests in the pulpits preached to them, and what some of the church fathers taught in their books and catechism, which read ‘I believe what the Holy Roman Church orders to believe, be it written in the Bible or not.”
“As the Reformation progressed, books were written against the practices and abuses of the Catholic church. These books found their way secretly into the hands of the common people and awakened a great interest in religious questions. Many of the common folk neglected going to church. Instead they read these books and the Bible at home. They began having secret meetings at night in their homes, and often walked long distances in wind, rain and snow for religious discussions and services of prayer and song. This happened, not only in one locality but throughout the regions of Gailtal, Spatrion, Himmelberg, Spittal and other places.
“The spiritual leaders of the Catholic Church could not tolerate this since their occupation fell into disrepute and began to dwindle, so they took drastic measures to curb and extinguish such religious fires. Consequently, all who were under suspicion of being inspired by the Lutheran teachings were summoned to appear before the priest to be interrogated as to whether they had any forbidden books. If so, they were strictly ordered to surrender them, and whoever had a Bible, New Testament, or any Lutheran book was fined a penalty of 12, 18, 20 or 24 gulden, according to the size of the book. This matter became serious and had to be kept secret, as there were also many scoundrels who sneaked about at night and listened at doors and windows so that they could report to the authorities if someone was reading or singing from forbidden song books. These homes were then visited and searched. If any books were found, they were confiscated and the owner had to pay a heavy fine. Consequently, the authorities gave strict orders that everyone had to bring his books to the parsonage where they were examined. Those which were not Catholic were confiscated; the others were stamped with a seal and returned. The Church did not accomplish much with this because the people did not bring in all the forbidden books, only the Catholic ones. The Bible and the other books were hidden.
“This became known to the authorities, who then searched the homes. If they found a book without the proper stamp or seal, the owner was whipped without mercy and had to pay a heavy fine. The priests and chaplains also preached relentlessly against Martin Luther’s teachings and condemned him to hell. One of the priests said, ‘Nothing remains in order any more and many assume duties for which they are not fitted. The plow, the whip, or the ox-goad belongs in the hands of the farmer or householder, and not the Book. The dipper and the pail belong to the housewife, and not the Book. The hoe, the axe, the flail and the manure fork belong to the hired man, and not the Book. The spinning wheel, the feeding of hogs and that kind of work belong to the maid, and not the Book. Nobody is satisfied anymore with his station in life; all want to be spiritual leaders.’
“In spite of all the efforts and diligence of the Church, the opposition continued to grow and the authorities began to openly persecute all who acknowledged faith in the Lutheran or other Protestant confessions. The district judge of Spittal appointed Johannes Turteltaub to act as Commis-sioner of Religion. He received orders from the Kaiser to rid the province of Carinthia of all Lutherans. Open rebellion resulted.
“The judge summoned all who were under suspicion to appear before him at Spittal for a hearing and ordered them to recant and return to the Catholic religion. People were threatened and whipped, especially the young people. Many were imprisoned several weeks in order to scare them. Those who remained steadfast and refused to recant were informed that they would not be tolerated and could not remain in the land. They would be driven away from their houses and homes and banished to Transylvania, in present day Romania, where Lutheranism was conditionally tolerated. They were warned how they would be treated there and that they would have to live in poverty for the rest of their days. Their small children would die from hunger. Friends and relatives pleaded with them to remain, saying that God is everywhere and that they could believe in their hearts whatever they wanted, even though they attended the Catholic Church and remained Catholics.
“Since this often meant leaving their wives or children, many returned to the Catholic faith. They had to recant and make public confession of their faith. However, most of them remained steadfast and left home and property. Some wealthy property owners left everything they had. Some young men and maidens left their parents, friends and relatives and accepted the Lutheran faith as the true and right way of life. Many of them did not wait to be summoned by the Commissioner of Religion but reported on their own accord and were registered. The threats of banishment were carried out to the letter.”
Records show that there were fourteen different transports of people from Carinthia to Transylvania from 1752 to 1757. My ancestors were in the twelfth transport which included 103 souls from 93 different families, that took place on Sept 10, 1755.
We Visited the Land of My Ancestors
On August 17, 1989 my husband Jim and I visited the area where my people had lived. As I saw the beautiful, rolling hills, the River Drau, sparkling as it flowed through the valley, and the high mountain peaks, we were so excited that God had sent us back to redeem the land of our forefathers, even as He had promised me in Jeremiah 7:7, “Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever.” We were not asking God to let us move back to live there, but were claiming it for the glory of God.
We soon found the original homes of our people. They were in amazingly good condition. We spent the night in the home of the Kleinsasser family. After a nice breakfast, we visited with Frau Getrude Gasser. She showed us her guest books and newspaper clippings of the visit of the Hutterites from USA and Canada. She told us that she is the seventh generation from Johannes Kleinsasser and his wife Barbara, who were banished from the home in 1755. One sister had stayed behind and married a Mueller. He drowned a year later. Then she was married again to a man by the name of Gasser. Frau Gasser is a descendant of this couple. She also showed us the old, original Martin Luther Bible that our forefathers had hidden for many years in a secret sealed up room in the cellar. Apparently when our forefathers knew that they were going to be driven out of their homes they built a wall in the cellar that made a space for them to hide that Bible. They knew that they would never be able to take it with them. It would have been found and confiscated by the authorities. They never saw it again. No one knew of it for all these years. Gertrude told us that a few years ago they realized, one day, that the dimensions of the inside of the basement were not the same as those on the outside. They were shorter on one end. Upon close inspection they realized one of the walls was different. It was a “dummy” wall. They broke it down, and found the Bible inside. She told us that our forefathers often used to gather together secretly in that cellar to read that Bible because reading it was forbidden by the authorities. We gazed upon that Holy Bible with awe. It is priceless. Jim took a picture of it. I had to wipe away my tears.
We travelled throughout southern Austria and Tyrol, visiting every place that has been mentioned in our books of the martyrs, redeeming the land and asking God to forgive the Church for their cruelty to their own people, and to send a revival to Austria. We even visited the prison at Klagenfurt where they had been imprisoned before they were sent out of the land on the Danube River. They were forced to build their own prison walls!
The story of the years of my people’s wanderings for many years, and their sojourn in Southern Russia until the late 1800s is all written in the book “Banished For Faith” published by Engeltal Press. [See page 26]
Although our people suffered greatly for many years, the Christians in Tyrol suffered even more. Our historians tell us that “not one Christian was left” they had either escaped, were put to death by fire and sword, sold as galley slaves, or died by starvation in prisons. Among my own people 2,176 faithful souls laid down their lives as martyrs for their faith in Christ.
God Loves His Children,
Even When They Hate and Kill Each Other
The Church of the New Covenant is like the Church of the Old Covenant, in the same way that Judah and Ephraim fought one another at times, often killing each other, so we too, in the last 2000 years have hated and fought each other, each one thinking they were right, and the only ones whom God in Heaven loved.
But the Lord loved both Judah and the Ten Northern Tribes, and in the same way He loves both the Protestant and the Roman Catholic, the Lutheran and Methodist, the Anglican and the Presbyterian, The Baptist and the Salvation Army. It is time for us to lay down our weapons of warfare, and love one another as Christ loves us. Only then will the World know that we are the Children of God. How can we win the Jew, the Moslem, the Hindu and the Buddhist when we are fighting and hating each other? It is time I see Christ in my Catholic Sister who is serving my Lord. It always gave me great joy to see how Pastor Mark Buntain and his wife Hulda were able to work together in harmony with Mother Teresa. It was because they shared the same burden and love for the people of Calcutta.
It wasn’t too long ago when we Protestants didn’t believe that a Catholic would ever get to Heaven, and they believed the same about us. What a surprise we got when God filled them with the Holy Spirit and they spoke in tongues like we did!
One day I was flying between Manila, Philippines and Davao City. The plane was almost full when two Catholic nuns came on board. I had been praying for the privilege of meeting a nun all by herself. When I saw them board, I knew God was answering my prayer because there was one vacant seat beside me, and another up front. One of the little Filipino nuns came and sat beside me. As we took off I saw she was frightened because she was nervously praying with her rosary. I touched her hand lightly and said, “Don’t be afraid. Jesus is with us.” She looked at me, in surprise, and asked, “Do you know Him too?” I began telling her about my life, and how I was serving the Lord since 1947 when I went as a missionary to China. We talked all the way to Cebu City where she had to disembark. I will never forget her words, “I never knew that someone who wasn’t Catholic could love Jesus as much as I do!” We have never seen each other again, but one day we will meet at Jesus’ feet.
God never built the walls between us. Man did it. It is time for man to tear down these walls. It is by loving each other that the world shall know that we are Christ’s disciples.
In God’s Sight We Are One Body
Romans 12:5 says, “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.”
You cannot cut off your arm without feeling pain. Your brother of another interpretation of the Scripture is still your brother. Make allowances for others to think differently than yourself. We must never forget that: “We being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:17).
God, looking down from Heaven, sees us all as His beloved children. Some speak in tongues, some do not; some prophesy, some do not; some baptize this way, and some another way; some take holy communion with grape juice and leavened bread, some only use wine and unleavened wafers; some wear a certain type of garment, others another; some wear jewelry, some do not; some cover their heads, some do not; yet we are all His beloved children.
Can we not put up with one another’s differences until, “we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13)?
Let us never fail to endeavor “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
Apostle Peter tells us all to be “of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:” (1 Peter 3:8).
God said that there would be a day of reconciliation for Israel in Jeremiah 50:4, “In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping: they shall go, and seek the LORD their God.”
A Scripture I love is Ezekiel 37:15-17, “The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying, Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions: And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.”
It is time for the Church to fulfill Isaiah 52:8, “Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion.”
Christ died to break down the middle wall of partition between us (Ephesians 2:14). He is our Peace!
We keep praying for revival, but we expect God to send it to us and through us. How wrong we can be! The Lord has sent many awakenings and renewals to different churches and denominations, but a true Heaven-sent, Holy Ghost revival will impact the entire Church of Jesus Christ. The last, end-time revival river will flow through every denomination and church where people are hungry for God. It will be much like the Charismatic Visitation of the seventies, and the Azusa Street Outpouring in 1905.
When I was ministering in Quebec in September of 2003 I declared, under the anointing, that if we think for one moment, that the revival God will send to Quebec will exclude the Catholic Church, we are wrong. They may even be first in revival. Sometimes the Holy Spirit does some very surprising things.
How Dare We Refuse To Forgive?
If we expect the Jews to forgive the Church for the cruel sufferings we have caused them, and yet we Protestants refuse to forgive the Catholic church for the sufferings they inflicted on us, we are hypocrites. How can we demand of Israel, what we ourselves are incapable of doing?
I have studied the many books written by my people of their persecution, yet when the Lord sent me to travel throughout Austria and ask the Lord to forgive the Roman Catholic Church for the horrible things they had done to my people, I knew that unless I loved them, my prayers would be in vain. Thank God, He filled my heart with His Calvary-love. I can honestly say I feel no bitterness against them.
And I realized, when I saw the beautiful rolling hills and the homes of my forefathers, that my Lord had restored to me all that they had lost for His name’s sake, for Engeltal is even more beautiful than the Hills of Carinthia.
In the end, the martyrs who forgive their tormentors will be the victors. But it is only as we live in the Glory that we can love as Christ loved those who crucified Him. He has given us this Glory that we might be one. Only then will the Church of Christ be Perfect. Ask God to give you a mighty baptism of His unconditional love.
Copyright 2003 by Gwen R. Shaw
The Story of Gwen Shaw’s Mennonite Forefathers:
banished for faith — Emil Waltner. The stirring story of the courageous forefathers of Gwen Shaw, the Hutterite Mennonites, who were banished from their homeland and suffered great persecution for their faith. Republished with an index and epilogue by Gwen Shaw.