A big question about violence is what you do when faced with direct threats to yourself or your children. This video covers the story of Jacob Hostetler, who would not defend himself or his own family – and went on to have at least half a million descendants.
The video runs for 41 minutes. If you prefer text to video, dive down below it for a short written summary of the events and discussion.
A point that always comes up in discussion about non-violence is what you do when directly threatened. Most people, professing Christians included, think violence must be justified in such a case. We believe the true Christian view is that it is not; and that the alternative view becomes the thin end of the wedge in justifying violence on a wider and wider scale. This account of Jacob Hochstetler, who took the view that violence is never justified, is truly remarkable.
In 1738 Jacob Hochstetler and his family sought sanctuary in America from the religious persecution Anabaptists were suffering in Europe. With other members of their Amish community they settled along Northkill Creek on the Pennsylvania frontier, between French-controlled Indian territory and British settlements. Eighteen years later the French began to incite the tribes to attack English settlers moving into lands claimed by France, and a bloody war ensued.
Jacob and his family where attacked in their home. One son was quickly injured, and the sons went for their hunting muskets to defend themselves. But Jacob would not allow it, so they simply barricaded the door and windows and hoped the Indians would go away. The Indians then set fire to the house. The family tried to take refuge in the cellar, but were eventually forced out by the heat, whereupon they were attacked and Jacob’s wife and one child killed. The rest were taken prisoner.
Taken many miles away to the Indian encampment, Jacob was allowed to go hunting on his own with a musket to help feed the tribe. They had realised that he could be trusted to do no harm. In due course he took advantage of this and escaped. He managed to return to the British settlements, where he was debriefed since he had been in enemy territory. This is partly why the story is so well documented.
Jacob and his wife are now estimated to have between half a million and one million descendants, both Amish and non-Amish. Biblically, it is a sign of great blessing to have many descendants. One is reminded of Abraham, who was willing to kill his one and only precious son if God commanded it. Abraham, of course, went on to have countless millions of descendants.
Accepting possible death when there seems to be a way out is the ultimate test of Faith. It’s a situation that none of us ever wants to face. Should we not be able to agree, when we have no immediate threat and are able to consider things quietly and peacefully, that doing no harm must be the better course, and certainly the one that Jesus would wish us to take?