We think we live in tumultuous times.
If we are truly listening to the signs in our culture, politics, education, healthcare and even religion, its all there in the full inglorious-cacophony of our own humanity – we’ve lost our minds.
Our conversations have been reduced to name-calling and sound-bitten tweets hoping to go viral (like a disease). It feels dire and divisive even within our specific tribes.
However, are things really that bad?
I’ve been reading an amazing book, Introduction to The History of Christianity (3rd Edition, edited by Tim Dowley) and came across SEVERAL hundred chunks of history, spanning the two thousand years since its beginning, where the Church flourished in the absolute chaotic environments of political and cultural upheaval. I mean absolutely horrible periods of persecution, death and societal ostracizing.
I’m not trying to say that we are NOT living in difficult times or that we are NOT living in the “end times” (although the Church has had more “rapture alerts” than Trump’s had lawsuits), its just that I hear people say, “It can’t get any worse.” Really? Just a quick glance at the past tells me, “oh, it HAS been worse – much worse!” Maybe it’s just that I feel so ill-prepared to face the challenges ahead and so helpless in finding handles of truth. Shouldn’t I be content to simply label these times as INSANE? And I mean that in the most non-PC, insensitive way – WE ARE CRAZY. I know you’re fighting the urge to say, “I’m not crazy… it’s THEM – THEY’RE crazy.” Sure, but who’s “they or them?”
Modern Day Peace Meets
I just read this morning that there was a Congress of Christian Leaders (CCL) to “Bridge the Divide in Evangelicalism,” like a good ol’ modern-day Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15. It seems that word “divisive” is synonymous with Christian. We need a new apostle Peter (they called him the bridge-man between Paul & James) to come in to pray some sense into the saints or a neo-Paul to stop and drop some Ananias and Sapphira raca on folks.
Cool Church History Stuff
I came across a refreshing letter written during the second century (that’s like in the 200 A.D. range) that tries to defend Christianity to a possible official (secular or saint). The letter is so simple and elegant in its description of what is supposed to “set us apart.”
Here is chapter five of An Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus.
“Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign.
And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives.
They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they, rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet no one can explain the reason for this hatred.
I’m still exploring the different ways the first and second century Church dealt with strange beliefs, cultic practices and powerfully charismatic leaders who were off their Biblical rocker. You already know the main ways, excommunication, branded a heretic and sometimes even put to death. It was pretty messy. If I find anything interesting in Church history (which is ALL OF IT), I’ll let you know. So, if I get in some cultural knock-down-drag-out-fight over something, I’m going to remember to do this, “A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult.”