Sorry for the delay in posting this week, we have had two separate internet issues that has kept me offline for most of this week.
Taking a look back at the cultural climate in the decades after Christ was crucified there is a distinct difference between the culture of the Roman Empire and the followers of Jesus. When Rome enveloped a country or a city it left an unmistakeable imprint, usually make vast improvements. Even the most remote cities had beautiful gyms, arenas, gardens, spas, and running water. Despite the wealth and beauty, it was also a time when you could charge someone with being a Christian simply by writing up a bill of complaint and presenting it to the local magistrate.
And yet the Gospel of Christ continued to spread.
The very nature of Christianity was so contradictory to the Roman culture that Christians were tried and tortured… unless they recanted their faith and offered incense to Caesar and the local deities.
In an Empire where Roman citizenship often meant status and wealth, Paul writes in Galatians 3:25-29 “But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons (and daughters) of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”
These words are what circulated all throughout Asia Minor, seeming to undermine the upper classes of Roman citizenship as if it were a call to mass mutiny. This very message of oneness and unity was completely counter the their culture. This message of unity through faith in Christ was one worth dying for. Ignatius, thought to be a disciple of John and successor of Peter as the head of the church at Antioch, was executed for his faith in Christ sometime between AD 98 and AD 117. He wrote letters to the little communities of believers as he was escorted to Rome by a host of soldiers begging the Christians to remain steadfast in their faith, reminding them that they should be united together.
In the end, Ignatius wrote as approached Rome “On land and at sea, by night and by day, I am in chains with ten leopards around me—or at least with a band of guards who grow more brutal the better they are treated. However, the wrongs they do make me a better disciple.”
We live in a similar culture that does not understand our faith and doesn’t play by the same set of rules. Our gospel is the same as that of Ignatius, John, Peter, Paul, and Jesus but is it up to us to decide what to do with it. Do we work hard to be united in Christ? Do we run from our faith in times of crisis and persecution or do we stand firm? Do we approach things with the love and peace of Christ, proclaiming the truth of Christ in any and every opportunity?
We are a part of a broad community of believers that stretch aroudn the world. The spread of the gospel in the early years is a direct result of Christians how hose to stand firm in the faith in the face of death. Remember today those that are still persecuted, losing their lives for their faith, and that we all would remain steadfast, showing the love of Christ.