It used to be that Hippies and Beatniks (remember them?) were America’s counter-culture…
“As Christians [in America], our challenge is to go back as close as we can to the Gospel and truly be the church. Increasingly, we’re likely to be a counter-culture. As that happens, we will be the last great defenders of reason, truth and human dignity, with the task of defending [the Faith] not just theoretically…but practically, as the early church did… Our privilege will be to repeat that story in our time.” —Os Guinness (World Magazine interview, June 29, 2013)
Our passports say “Kingdom of Heaven”.
Our culture is Jesus.
We are light in the darkness at noon.
Far out, man.
The success of the Gospel isn’t measured by the popularity of its people or it’s appeal to the world, but by the obedience of simple folks to the Holy Spirit. The cost is often high, but the results are beyond measure. Think you need a big name to shake the world? Think again. The Holy Spirit and a bunch of nobodies—nameless people who were frequently abused—were a staggering combination…
“The early church didn’t have a Graham, a Finney, or a Moody. It didn’t have Promise Keepers, a Great Awakening, or User Friendly Churches. Furthermore it had no concise spiritual laws to share, no explosive method for talking to the unconverted. What it had seems quite paltry: it had unspectacular people with a hodgepodge of methods—so hodgepodge that they can hardly be called methods, and rarely a gathering of more than a handful of people. The paltry seems to have been enough, however, to make an emperor or two stop and take notice…nameless Christians [who brought] the Name of Jesus Christ to the attention of pagans—not a phenomenon that filled stadiums; just enough to begin converting the whole known world…” —Mark Galli
(Since the Author of Hebrews told Jesus’ followers to “provoke one another to love and good deeds”, here are some provocations I collected over the years that I hope to launch every day or two. Blessings and provocations upon you. —j)
Aristides watched Christians. He lived in the early 2nd century AD, and he saw believers who believed and who did—and it showed.
“They abstain from all impurity in the hope of the recompense that is to come in another world. As for their servants or handmaids or children, they persuade them to become Christians by the love they have for them; and when they become so, they call them without distinction, brothers. They do not worship strange gods; and they walk in all humility and kindness, and falsehood is not found among them; and they love one another. When they see the stranger they bring him to their homes and rejoice over him as over a true brother; for they do not call those who are after the flesh, but those who are in the Spirit and in God.
“And there is among them a man that is poor and needy and if they have not an abundance of necessities, they fast two or three days, that they may supply the needy with the necessary food.
“They observe scrupulously the commandment of their Messiah; they live honestly and soberly as the Lord their God commanded them. Every morning and all hours on account of the goodness of God toward them, they render praise and laud Him over their food and their drink; they render Him thanks…
“Such is the law of the Christians and such is their conduct.”
—From The Apology of Aristides, Syriac text and translation. Cited in Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 1 (Chicago Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc), page 346
This is what Christians looked like and did. It’s good to look back and remember, but some memories need resuscitation into a working reality. Lets hope the modern church hasn’t fallen too far from the tree…