Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
and does no evil to his neighbor,
nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
Images of Christians being eaten by lions or slaughtered by gladiators in Rome’s Colosseum can be found in many of the West’s museums of art. Oddly, many of these paintings were commissioned by the Church to recall our less than auspicious beginnings.
From the crucifixion of Jesus to the stoning of Stephen, to the persecution of Saul, the Church got off to a precarious start. In its attempt to squash this new, blasphemous religion the Roman Empire did more to coalesce early Christian resolve than they could have imagined.
By the early 3rd century thousands of “Christ followers” had been tortured, crucified, and ripped apart by lions. Because of their sacrifices, many people saw the principles of the Christian faith as a viable alternative to the gods of Rome. One such martyr was a young convert to Christ named Perpetua. Her death in the arena served to solidify the faith in a myriad of Christians who followed, including Augustine.
In the early 4th century, Roman Emperor Constantine (272-337 CE) declared Christianity the official religion of the empire, leaving Christians alone to believe what they wanted. This act (some say on Constantine’s deathbed) changed the lot of the Church forever. The Roman government had cleared the way for the early Christians to spread their beliefs freely; and spread they did.
“Missionaries” ventured forth into the unknown to tell people of the salvation found in Christ. From China in the East to Gaul and Britannia in the West, individuals with godly passion and personal dedication spread the message of Jesus wherever they went. Roman roads, designed to move Rome’s troops rapidly throughout the Empire, now carried the Gospel to the ends of the known world. The Church grew and expanded. And it also became enormously wealthy, possessing lands and holdings funded by her adherents, sometimes willingly, other times, not so much. Eventually, this wealth resulted in a vicious rivalry between Church leaders and Feudal Lords; both vying for political power and possessions.
Many Monastic orders grew out of the perceived divisions and commercializing of the church. Men and women would cloister themselves in monasteries for scripture study, service, and escape. These movements, and others like them, began the separation of the church from society. However, some sets their minds to preserve the codex of Scripture, provide “monastic escapes” for those who required silence, secrecy, and protection. And they provided basic life sustenance for their surrounding communities.
However, they never understood the importance of being IN the community, rather than an evasion from it.
A story— One of the men I mentor is teaching a course on 21st Century Evangelism. When two of the students learned that we were actually going to talk with a real“nonChristian” they dropped out of the class. What have we come to? Should we build more walls and defend ourselves against the onslaught of our “evil” society?
What will it cost you to engage your world?
We all want to make a difference. Some of us want to make a difference exclusively for ourselves: more money, nicer house, vacation home, BMW 7 series. Nothing wrong with that— except for the “exclusively” part.
Some of us want to make a difference on a local playing field—literally; coaching a sport, serving the elderly, providing meals for the injured, etc. We care about our friends & neighbors.
Fewer of us want to make a difference in the world arena. We become the shakers & movers of world change. We may hold public office and be in the public eye or we may operate under-the-radar, making a difference on the sly. But we keep the world safer and less prone to self-destruct.
The challenge of this EMPulse is obvious. In what ways are you making a difference in your neighborhood, your community, and the world? Notice the question was not Are you making a difference? Why? Because you are not the one who should provide the answer. The people around you should respond. As for making a difference in the world, giving from your bounty (not from whatever is left at the end of the month) should be a priority. But have you ever sought an audience with Theresa May, Michel Temer, Justin Trudeau, Enrique Peña Nieto or Xi Jinping? Some of us need to do that to make a difference.
Kent Julian, on his BLOG Dream to Do, suggests 7 traits of people who make a difference—
If you show evidence of any of these character traits, then you should already be making a difference. Add significant time in Prayer to that list and you become a lethal weapon in the hands of God.
If you do not exhibit any of these traits, why don’t you? Are you afraid of something, or self-absorbed? Or is personal gain that central to your life? Really?!? Isn’t making a difference worth a little sacrifice?
Do you really want to hear our Lord say to you “Depart from me, I never knew you… .” (Matthew 7:23).
We all need to make sure we are making a difference somewhere.
Honor God, honor people.., make a difference,
Dallas PD, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church Charleston, SC, Newtown CT, Orlando, San Bernadino, Oregon Community College, Boston Marathon, Kalamazoo, Washington Naval Yard, Virginia Tech.
These are the some of the communities who have found their place in American history through the tragic taking of innocent lives. These were men whose spirits were fueled with anger and resentment toward the police, the military, white people, black people, and innocent children. Their crimes were crimes of racism and resentment, of control and feeling out of control, of having no voice in the greater arena of our great American culture. Maybe we’re not so great after all.
These murders and assassinations are representative of deeper divides between black & white, between police brutality and criminal license. On a deeper lever, they belie a sickness and fear within the souls of men to dominate, to be right, and to win. This is not a healthy platform on which to build a civil society. It is a platform that lays the foundations for civil war, permanent racial tension, and mutual destruction.
Is this the country we want to leave to our children?!? Of course not! But unless we act, all of us, and act now, our children will be facing the same issues 50 years from now.
Allow me to offer a course of action4now.
These suggestions may go unnoticed, be seen as invalid, or simply ignored. Nonetheless, my belief is that they are not as naïve and uncritically fanciful as they might appear. One of my mentors was the business consultant Peter Drucker. One of his more famous sayings was— The best way to predict the future is to create it. It’s time we all got down to some serious, creative work.
And did I mention the difficulty and necessity of forgiveness? Do I have to?
Honor God; honor people…, make a difference,
First, if we are to flourish in our present postChristian culture we must be deeply networked within our church— our Christian community. We need her safety, her training, her friendships and definitely her worship together. We need to tell our stories to one another, share our lives together, and, always, eat chicken & pizza together. Maybe not at the same time.
The relationships we build within the Body of Christ are critically important for those who might attend church with us. They need to see hugging and laughter and prayer and forgiveness of one another. They need to join in on the fun. They need to see what life in Christ might be like.
Secondly, before you can ever get them to darken the doors of a church you first have to get to know them in the midst of their safe-places, among their friends and within their interests. No Christian should dwell in a void, surrounded exclusively by other Christians. We need to embed ourselves inside our office parties, Saturday baseball leagues, our children’s sports teams, even the PTA & library reading club. God never intended us to hibernate away from our surrounding culture except for times of prayer & fasting.
What He expects us to do is to become beacons of light, enjoying the celebrations of this world with the friends we make in it. If all we have are Christian friends we have somehow lost the intent of the Great Commission to “GO!” We are not given the leisure to WAIT for people to come to us. We are called to enter their world; very much, I think, like Jesus did.
WARNING: If you do this you will get your hands dirty. You will have your faith challenged…, and strengthened. Some well-meaning believers will criticize you for spending so much time among “the heathen.” That, too, is what Jesus experienced. It’s where He was meant to be. It’s where we are meant to be too.
For what it’s worth,