Amish Christians: they’re doing something right.

Last night I watched Amish: A Secret Life on the BBC iPlayer. If you live in the UK you can find and watch it here (until 17th August 2012) but, unfortunately, if you’re not from the UK you won’t be able to view it.

I find the Amish community incredibly interesting. Last summer I visited a friend from a little town called Grove City in western Pennyslvania and this area, which is found within Lawrence County, is full of Amish people. You would see them in Sheetz, a big gas station chain, getting their lunch, and even taking part in building work on the houses on the street where my friend lived. One day we took a trip to Volant and ate Amish doughnuts while I felt like I was walking around an open air museum full of actors. Amish men, as soon as they get married, grow beards so people know their marital status, and while some say they paint their doors blue to keep evil spirits away, others believe that it’s to let people know there’s an eligible daughter living in the household.

The Amish (especially the old order) live by a lot of rules. If you want to remain Amish you have to follow these rules or you may have to face being shunned by the Amish church and your whole community. However, a lot of Amish are beginning to see that this way of life, the old order, maybe isn’t what God wants for them; a lot of them are taking risks and being shunned because they know it’s the right thing to do. The family featured in last night’s documentary, who viewed themselves as Amish Christians, were of the old order and, by agreeing to be filmed, were taking this risk; but this is what I loved about this family. Usually programmes in the UK about the Amish feature British people living with Amish families and trying to adapt to their way of life. A lot of the time the participants don’t even share their beliefs on God so, overall, none of it makes sense to them. While I appreciate technology and believe it’s an incredibly useful tool to Christians in the 21st Centry, I also understand the Amish’s reasoning for not wanting to use it for reasons related to faith and a relationship with God. However, last night’s programme did a great job of depicting what true Christianity, in some ways, should be like.

Now I’m not saying we should all get rid of all the technology in our homes and become Amish (I think that if we’ve been blessed with technology we should take full advantage of it in a way that will glorify God), but the great thing about this family was that they were willing to be filmed so they could spread the word of God.

In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus says,

“All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)

We are called to spread the word of God, and all this family wanted to do was do that. They risked everything that was important to them so the people who watch this programme could know how good the Lord is. They didn’t seem too fussed on the rules; I think no technology and modest clothing made it easier for them to focus on God but they certainly didn’t see that as something that would make Him love them more or that would mean they were getting into heaven.

One thing I loved was that they would pray before every meal. They were eating KFC and they would pray, in the fast food restaurant, a really beautiful, meaningful prayer. Everything within them cried out to God, they are so committed and so focused upon Him. In their prayers, before asking for things, they would say “if it is in your will”; they don’t just expect things because they want them, they knew all of it was God’s choice. I so often find myself asking for things and just expecting them to happen because I want them, not because it’s in God’s will.

One thing that bothered me a little, that was entirely down to the people making the film, was that, as usual, they depicted the woman, Miriam, as a slave to her husband. They asked her why she got up at 4:30 am every morning to make her husband’s breakfast before he went to work and she smiled the biggest, most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen, and talked about how it was because that was her job, and happily said “I’m the Queen of this house, I need to see that everybody is well fed.” She also at one point stated that the Bible calls women to be submissive to their husbands. Sadly, what wasn’t covered at all was that, far more than the Bible mentions how women should submit to their husbands, it discusses strongly how husbands should love and respect their wives.

Ephesians 5:22-33 greatly conveys this, starting with a short passage on wives submitting to their husbands, but then a more lengthy one on husbands loving their wives:

“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which he is the Saviour. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife love himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church – for we are members of His body. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you must also love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (NIV)

After watching this programme I’ve gained a great respect for the Amish. There may be many who live life by following the rules and thinking that that is what will save them, but there are also many escaping from that, who believe that knowing Jesus and having a relationship with Him is the only way. At the end of the programme, the father of the family, David, said something brilliant:

“There is no way of life that will bring peace and joy to a person’s heart, some people think if they will only live a unique lifestyle like the Amish that will help them to be happy, some believe that if they have a bigger house they’ll be happy. My message is that all those things are good but if that’s what your happiness is based on it’s not going to last. If you accept Jesus that will be the true happiness.”

I know that a lot of Amish people are living by rules and believing that this is what will get them a place in heaven, but Miriam and David’s family don’t believe that; they believe in loving people and spreading the word of God. I’m not about to become Amish, don’t worry, but I do want to begin to chase after Jesus in the same way that this family did. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

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