In the early decades of the new “movement” that was called Christianity, a darkness reigned deeply in the Roman Empire that’s difficult for us to grasp today.
Unwanted babies, unwanted for any number of reasons, were routinely abandoned outside city walls to die. This was so common people didn’t even give a thought as to it being cruel and savage.
Immoral sexual practices permeated the culture.
Women were not even considered worthy of second-class status.
Slavery was commonplace, not only accepted but affirmed.
But Christianity, what was widely regarded as a strange religious “cult,” which was the target of the most brutal kinds of persecutions, somehow awakened this dark empire.
As Rodney Stark, in his book The Rise of Christianity, notes:
Perhaps above all else, Christianity brought a new conception of humanity to a world saturated with capricious cruelty and the vicarious love of death.
How did this happen? Through the lives of those Christians, who lived out the selfless, sacrificial love Jesus modeled on the cross.
As America slides further into the abyss of moral relativity, cultural chaos and darkness, I believe we will be well-served to look back at the early church and the times in which it existed, and see what lessons we can learn.
First, there is hope even in the darkest darkness. If God, through His people, can awaken and re-direct the course of the Roman Empire, then He can do so anywhere. That includes an increasingly secularized America.
Second, the early believers not only understood but lived out the Apostle Paul’s declaration, “I count all things as loss compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:8).
Let’s be honest about this one. In a country as prosperous as America is, the wealthiest nation that has ever existed in the history of humanity, do we 21st century Christians really share Paul’s abandonment to God?
Please understand, I’m not pointing a finger here. I’m looking in the mirror. With so much prosperity around us that we take it for granted, it’s extremely difficult to really live as if nothing we possess matters, and in fact is garbage compared to knowing Christ.
Many years ago a Christian from Africa visited my brother’s church. In talking about the spiritual discipline of fasting, he opened a stocked refrigerator and said, “It’s much harder for you to fast than we in my country, where we don’t have this kind of abundance staring at us every day from the inside of a refrigerator.”
It’s not that God despises wealth and prosperity. I believe His best for us is that we experience both prosperity AND the totally surrendered life to him. Unfortunately history, and I would argue our personal experiences, demonstrate that this is much more challenging than fasting when all we have is an empty refrigerator. The temptation to trust in possessions and prosperity is very, very strong.
Third, God demonstrates throughout history that when darkness advances He delights in showing up. Light and love overwhelm darkness and hate. Revivals in England and America in the 18th and 19th centuries are powerful illustrations of this.
And it seems that God always starts with a remnant. In Rome in the first century, the remnant was in fact the early church. In revivals since it has been a small group of believers, and sometimes just one man or woman.
Is there a remnant coalescing in America today? A remnant who will take God at His word, who will live with abandonment, completely sold out to Him? A remnant who will live courageously, swimming against the tide of culture with sacrificial love, selfless service, and holy boldness?
I’m persuaded there is. So the question is, do you and I want to be part of it?
Would you like to unpack this with me? Then I look forward to corresponding with you.
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.