I’ve been asked recently why my column is called “Third Way Family.” The question has prompted me to share my reasoning behind choosing this title and what it means to me.
I first started blogging after we moved to the Philippines. I wrote a lot of newsletter updates for our friends and supporters. I also enjoyed writing about topics that moved me personally, and that people could relate to and also be challenged by. I always thought of writing more and explored building a website called “Third Way Family.” So when Canadian Mennonite asked me to write this column, the title was a quick and clear choice. But what does “third way” mean and how does it relate to my family?
First of all, the third way refers to early Anabaptists who split from the Protestant reformers and were therefore not Catholic or Protestant, but a new third way. They lived with radical allegiance to Jesus and risked persecution and violent death because of their belief in a voluntary adult commitment to Jesus Christ. They believed that church and state should be separate and that adults should be baptized upon confession of their faith rather than join the state church through infant baptism.
This radical way of personally committing our lives to Jesus above any other authority—the state—is still a mark of recognition for Anabaptists and Mennonites. My opa (Siegfried Bartel), a faithful follower of Jesus, used to say, “The state cannot tell me who my enemy is.”
This is crucial in my own faith and as a family because our allegiance is always first to Christ and not to systems/governments put in place by people. We embody loyalty to Jesus Christ by living the way Jesus lived. If this means opposing government systems that are unjust, we do so in creative peacebuilding ways. Living and leading in the Philippines under a violent and oppressive government shed new light on these Anabaptist principles and helped shape our Christ-centred peacebuilding work.
“Third Way Family” is also significant for me because of its roots in Jesus’ third way. Many times we think there are only two choices or options in dealing with conflict, when actually there is a third or alternate choice. When faced with the choice to fight back or give in, there is always a creative option to engage conflict. Jesus’ creative third way always honours the life, dignity and value of each person through active, nonviolent action. Jesus’ life exemplifies radical love that teaches us to transform unjust systems, love our enemies and build peace amid brokenness.
Walter Wink writes about Jesus’ third way illustrated in Matthew 5:38-41, a scripture passage about turning the other cheek and going the extra mile. Wink writes: “Jesus is not telling us to submit to evil, but to refuse to oppose it on its own terms. We are not to let the opponent dictate the methods of our opposition. He is urging us to transcend both passivity and violence by finding a third way, one that is at once assertive and yet nonviolent.”
As a family, we seek to live out Jesus’ creative, loving, nonviolent and assertive third-way options. We often fail, of course, but walking in God’s grace energizes us to strive for Jesus’ third way. I love sharing about our attempts to live out the gospel in this way and what we learn on the journey. I hope you enjoy reading them!
Christina Bartel Barkman, with her four little ones and her pastor husband, seeks to live out Jesus’ creative and loving “third way” options.