What it means to be a Christian

The specific words vary from congregation to congregation as members are received into the church, but all affirm their belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. They promise to turn from sin and to live in faithfulness to God and to the church, taking the example and teachings of Jesus as a model. Brethren never stop discussing what that model means for the daily life of the believer.

Seeking to follow Romans 12:2, "Do not be conformed to this world" (NRSV), Brethren insist members should not thoughtlessly adopt the patterns of the world around them. At an earlier time, features like dress, homes, and meetinghouses were distinctively plain as we sought to live what was called "the simple life." Brethren refused military service and practiced nonviolence in the face of violence. We refused to take oaths or go to court to solve problems. These practices set us apart from the world.

Today we seek to interpret biblical teachings in fresh ways for our day. We encourage members to think about what they buy and how they use their money in an affluent society. We are sensitive to the limited resources of our global community. We encourage people to "affirm" rather than "swear" when taking an oath. With earlier Brethren, we believe that "our word should be as good as our bond."

Above all, Brethren seek to pattern our daily living after the life of Jesus: a life of humble service and unconditional love. As part of a larger body of believers-the church, the body of Christ-we go into all the world today with a mission of witness, service, and reconciliation.

(Drawn from "Who Are These Brethren?," by Joan Deeter; "Reflections on Brethren Heritage and Identity," Brethren Press; "The Brethren Heritage," Elizabethtown College)

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