I am personally a fan of the primitive Judeo-christian church. The men and women who spread out from ancient Jerusalem and Galilee throughout the Roman world after the crucifixion of Jesus are among the most remarkable people in history. Those who followed in their footsteps and example did something absolutely extraordinary.
We are all pretty familiar with the story of Jesus. He came to ancient Israel as the promised Messiah. He was not received by the religious and political authorities of Israel and, it can be said with a great deal of truth, that the reason for this is because they were looking for a political messiah, a great king who would save the Jewish nation from the boot of Rome. The message and life of Jesus didn’t quite fit what folks had in mind. Rather, this Jesus’s primary purpose on earth was to save the Jewish people, and all mankind, from their sins.
But, I think there is an interesting aspect to this story that gets overlooked. I offer a little thought experiment. Consider it a Lenten exercise:
Imagine if Jesus had told the Jews of his day that he was,without question the Jewish Messiah, and was indeed the political messiah who would achieve the following, if all those who followed him would do as he commanded of them:
“I, Jesus, do not want you to fight great battles for me. As great soldiers, you are willing to die for me. And indeed, we will win a great victory for our nation by your willingness to die for me. And this is how:
“I call on all of you to live good holy lives. Love your neighbors, give and care for them. Worship me but be good Roman citizens. Honor Caesar. Give Caesar what is his, and God what is God’s. Do this and Caesar will come to destroy you.
“You are willing to die for me and for the Kingdom of God, so do so. Allow yourselves, as my followers, to be arrested for worshiping me, and allow yourselves to be thrown to the lions. The Romans will make sport of you in their great arenas. Bless them who do this and do not curse them. Do that for about 300 or so years, while caring for the poor and sick and I, Jesus the Messiah, will guarantee you of this: Rome the capital of a world, will fall down and worship their Jewish Messiah, and offer allegiance to me.”
Of course, Jesus pretty much said this, in his own way. One will notice that if one reads his Sermon on the Mount and others of his sayings and commands.
Detractors of Christianity like to point to the terrible job the Christian church did once it gained political and religious power and authority. They point to the crusades, the inquisitions, the bloody and terrible religious wars of the 1550-1700, etc. And much of that is fair game. Christianity was not ready to run things when Constantine turned the keys of his kingdom to those who worshiped the Jewish Messiah. But the Church Constantine turned the keys over to – that church was pretty remarkable.
That is the church to be.