Ouch! Sometimes when I think about the lives of the first disciples of Jesus I feel a big sense of conviction. By looking through the lens of history and observing those early Christians it’s easy to notice that there was something radically different about them. The truth is that they had a deliberate conversion from the old life which is often lacking in our day. I wonder at times if we haven’t gotten a bit soft and sleepy in the 21st century west and are no longer able to show any difference between us and the world around us. By this I don’t mean we need to act weird and pick up man made traditions like the Amish. But sometimes we forget that we as authentic followers of Christ are part of a greater Kingdom and therefore are called to a new way of life. The first followers of Christ seemed to get that. A dramatic illustration of this is found in Acts 19:18-19 where believers burned their sorcery scrolls which amounted to an enormous financial sacrifice. They took their commitment to Christ seriously and therefore the faith spread. They were so serious, that they were willing to make huge economic sacrifices in order to live a holy life. The life of those first Christ followers was a completely radical call contrasted to the world of non-believers. Describing these early Christians, a Greek physician of the day named Galen stated that, “They include not only men but also women who refrain from cohabitating all through their lives, and they also number individuals who, in self-discipline and self-control in matters of food and drink, and in their keen pursuit of justice, have attained a pitch no inferior to that of genuine philosophy.” They lived to please God and other folks took notice. These early saints lived in the spirit of those listed in Hebrews 11 who were focused on Christ’s Kingdom. About the early Christians, the Letter to Diognetus, written at the end of the second century, states that “They live in their own countries, but only as guests and aliens. . . Every foreign country is their homeland, and every homeland is a foreign country to them.”
As the Church grew in the first century, they became increasingly more distinguished from society. Acts 19 records the church in Ephesus as being so influential that the trade of the silver smiths who made idols was affected negatively. With the church’s teaching that the man made idols were really no gods at all, the demand for the silver statues diminished. In other words, their lives influenced society. They didn’t try to shape the city through politics, they just lived out a serious commitment to Christ and change came naturally. As the US approaches Independence Day, I wonder if American Christ followers can learn something here. It would appear that the ancient way of shaping culture was not so much done through politics or coercion, but through love and daily influence? What are some practical ways that you can raise the bar in your life to reflect what it means to live a Kingdom life in the here and now?
So what are some practical ways that you can raise the bar in your life to reflect what it means to live a Kingdom life in the here and now?