By Andy Johnson, Pastor Cross Roads Baptist Church Farmerville, La.
Reality shows are a dime a dozen these days. While I don’t watch too much television, I am a sucker for a good reality show. Note that I said a good reality show.
Particularly interesting to me is the reality series “Amish Mafia” that airs on the Discovery Channel. The program focuses on the underground Amish church that seeks to do their Lord’s bidding by enforcement of the strict code of ethics and religious observations the Amish live by.
Anyone caught stepping out of the lines of the traditional Amish way of life is confronted with words of warning or destructive actions. Some have even suffered financial loss after the mob boss, who goes by the alias of “Lebanon Levi,” speaks to the Amish church bishop concerning certain ungodly activities within the confines of the community.
Levi has henchmen who assist when he imposes his will on those who would attempt to corrupt the community. More times than not they are the ones who confront the perpetrators in order to keep Levi’s image clean and to insure he remains in good standing with the church.
One episode shows a non-Amish man setting up a produce stand on the side of the road. It seems there are people who try to pass themselves off as Amish in an attempt to profit from the gentle peoples’ mystique.
A member of the community who sells produce informs Levi of this event because it is hurting business. Levi sends out his henchmen to “take care” of the imposter by destroying his make-shift operation and demanding that he leave town – which the imposter did.
Though Levi and his henchmen have never officially been baptized into the Amish church, the bishop allows the mafia’s behavior to continue for, in his mind, the good of the community.
The members of the mafia operate on the very edge of the law. However, if they were to be found guilty of behavior unbecoming to the Amish community, they would receive the ultimate punishment: being shunned from the church.
Though some of their activities are so extreme Discovery does not film them, many of their actions are respectable. One episode shows Levi delivering some financial assistance to a widow who has fallen on hard times.
There are other examples of benevolence demonstrated throughout the series. These acts of kindness are often done in an effort to keep in good standing with the bishop and to avoid being shunned.
I do not endorse the violence, blackmail, or dominance depicted in Amish Mafia. However, this reality series does provide insight, if even in a backhanded sort of way, as how the Body of Christ should be about our Father’s business.
First of all, we should be involved in our community’s affairs. There are far too many churches that just “exist” in a community and do not participate in the life of a community.
If our fellowship is worth opening the doors on Sunday, then we should believe that we are strategically placed in these areas for the benefit and betterment of our community.
In order for that to take place, we should know what’s going on. Be informed, stay in touch, and don’t live in seclusion away from the things that are happening in our circles of influence.
Another area that constantly needs improvement within the Body of Christ is our inclusion and exclusion of people.
It is my belief that no one should be turned away from being included in our fellowships – no matter what their ethnicity or background is. This is a must for our churches to survive.
If we are to show the unconditional love of Christ, we cannot cherry-pick the people we want to be included in our association.
We also should not be ashamed to confront wrong behavior. Too many times confrontation is avoided when it should be employed.
I am not one for confrontation but turning a blind eye to a situation involving a believer who behaves badly can lead some to conclude the behavior is acceptable.
Confrontation can lead to correction. Granted, there are extremes that should be avoided with confrontation, but if we are operating in the power of the Holy Spirit, grace will prevail and be sufficient to cover a multitude of wrong-doing.
We are not of this world, but we live in it. We should include ourselves in the things that are happening around us, while at the same time we remain separate from the snares that are ever- present.
Sitting around waiting on the Lord to return while doing nothing is not what He called us to do. The Lord called us to make disciples. That cannot be accomplished if we continue to live as though the rest of the world doesn’t exist.