Sunday, January 06, 2008

Christian Liebe

Date: January 6, 1714

Place: Bern, Switzerland

Christian Liebe was a young man and an active Pietist in October 1708 when he and his mother settled in the Marienborn area of Germany and joined the Brethren. Liebe traveled in early January of 1714 to Bern, Switzerland to minister to Brethren who were living there. The timing of his visit, however, was not good. The Bern City Council was involved in an active suppression of Anabaptists.

When Liebe was arrested, he admitted that his purpose was to minister, to give comfort, and to baptize even though these activities were expressly forbidden. The council decided to make an example of Liebe and some other Anabaptist ministers by sentancing them to life imprisonment on the galleys.

Liebe was sentanced on this day, January 6, 1714 for practicing his beliefs.

Because of winter conditions, Liebe was kept in a prison with 90 other criminals through the winter until it became feasible to transport them to a ship flying the flag of Sicily. Two of the Swiss Brethren who were also sentanced died during the winter months in prison.

Finally, after a harrowing ordeal lasting two years, in which two of the five ministers died, Liebe and the others were released in the spring of 1716. After his release, Liebe made his way to Krefeld where he shared leadership of the congregation with John Naas until they had a sharp disagreement and Nass withdrew. Liebe, who took a more rigorous position on church discipline, tried unsuccessfully to continue leadership to the once flourishing congregation.

We learn from Christian Liebe that conflict exists, both between the church and state and between church leaders. On this January 6, 2008 may we remember one who was sentanced to prison and life on the galleys. May we pray for wisdom as we provide leadership in the church that disagreements might be reconciled without destroying the congregation.