I was planning on this topic before Susan’s excellent post on a story out of Kenya (read it here).
In the ancient Roman world, before Constantine made Christianity the Empire’s state religion, Christians were under constant persecution in varying parts of the Empire. Even during the times when Rome itself did not openly outlaw Christianity, local authorities would take it upon themselves to jail, if not execute, Christians to keep the peace and the population appeased. Even Roman soldiers would take joy to go out of their way to make life difficult on the Christians they encountered.
Throughout all of this one thing remained consistent, Christians (for the most part) followed Christ’s teachings
So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets. (Matt 7:12)
If any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles (Matt 5:41)
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matt 5:44)
Christians showed agape not only to other Christians, but to everyone they encountered, friend or foe. Citizens knew that if they were in trouble, needed help, were destitute, or were ill, they could go to a Christian household, ask for help, and they would be given whatever they needed, no questions asked. Even Roman soldiers knew they could go to a Christian and seek healing for wounds or illnesses and not be turned away.
Today, would people know you were a Christian because of how you treated others, even those who would do you harm? Would you invite a Muslim into your home if they needed your help? Would you allow refugees into your country, knowing there is the possibility that they might do you harm?
A short tale. Recently I had the opportunity to help a local food bank collect much needed funds. At a holiday fair near where I live we asked patrons to donate whatever they could afford. I was pleased at the generosity of the people, but two things surprised me:
- A gentleman who looked like he should be receiving assistance walked up to me. I looked down at the cracked screen on his cellphone, and was prepared to give him one of the free meal coupons we were giving out. To my surprise he put $5 into my container, wished me a Merry Christmas, then disappeared into the crowd. I was moved, and remembered Jesus’ comment about the widow he saw a poor widow put in two copper coins. And he said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all the living that she had.” (Luke 21:2-4).
- The other thing that struck me odd is that during the entire three hours we were collecting contributions not a single “suit” (male or female) contributed anything. While their attitude towards us was no different than any other person, not one contributed so much as a single dollar. These are people who could have easily afforded even a small contribution. Asking others there about what they noticed (as this was my first year at this event) I was told that was not unusual.
So, how does the world see your Christianity? Would those that knew you say that you lived your Christianity? If you were taken to court and accused of being a Christian would you be found guilty?