A pagan observed an early 2nd century AD church. Here is what he saw.
“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…
“And if 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.
“And if any righteous person of their number passes away from this world, they rejoice and give thanks to God and they follow his body as though he were moving from one place to another. And when a child is born to them, they praise God, and if again it chances to die in its infancy, they praise God mightily, as for one who has passed through the world without sins.
“Such is the law of the Christians and such is their conduct.”
—Athenian Philosopher Aristides, c. 101-200
How things have changed. The church might want to take a step back—way back, and ponder what it is and what it use to be—and how we got from there to here.
“How can you cope with the end of the world and the beginning of another one? How can you put an earthquake into a test-tube or the sea into a bottle? How can you live with the terrifying thought that the hurricane has become human, that fire has become flesh; that Life itself came to life and walked in our midst? How can you cope with the concept that mankind tried to kill God, but He lived and now is our judge? How can a person come to Easter services and not be profoundly transformed by the fact that once in the history of humanity a truly innocent man died in our place and rose to life never to die again and he offers us eternal life? Christianity either means all of that, or it means nothing. It is either the most profound and devastating disclosure of the deepest reality in the world, or it’s a sham, a nonsense, and just deceitful acting. Most of us, unable to cope with saying either of those things, condemn ourselves to live in the shallow world in between. We may not be content there, but we don’t know how to escape until we are personally transformed by the resurrected Jesus Christ, from mere observers to worshippers of the living God!” —Author Unknown
The Resurrection changed everything. How has it changed you?
He is risen. Indeed.
“Here from this stable, here, from this Nazareth, this stony beach, this Jerusalem, this market place, this garden, this Praetorium, this Cross, this mountain, I announce it to you. I announce to you what is guessed at in all the phenomena of your world. You see the corn of wheat shrivel and break open and die, but you expect a crop. I tell you of the Springtime of which all springtimes speak. I tell you of the world for which this world groans and toward which it strains. I tell you that beyond the awful borders imposed by time and space and contingency, there lies what you seek. I announce to you life instead of mere existence, freedom instead of frustration, justice instead of compensation. For I announce to you redemption. Behold I make all things new. Behold I do what cannot be done. I restore the years that the locusts and worms have eaten. I restore the years [that] you have drooped away upon your crutches and in your wheelchair. I restore the symphonies and operas which your deaf ears have never heard, and the snowy massif your blind eyes have never seen, and the freedom lost to you through plunder and the identity lost to you because of calumny [slander] and the failure of justice; and I restore the good which your own foolish mistakes have cheated you of. And I bring you to the Love of which all other loves speak, the Love which is joy and beauty, and which you have sought in a thousand streets and for which you have wept and clawed your pillow.”—Thomas Howard, Christ the Tiger
On this Good Friday and on the brink of Easter, pause—go quiet and listen. You may just hear Jesus speak. I wonder what He will say to you.
“I don’t need a successor, only willing hands to accept the torch for a new generation. I am just one of many thousands called to be an evangelist.” —Billy Graham
Man of God, man of integrity, counselor to presidents, preacher to peasants, evangelist, prophet, servant of Jesus. He will be missed.
Now it’s your turn.
“There’s nothing you can do wrong to make God love you less; there’s nothing you can do good to make God love you more.” —Horacio Spafford
Some days I really need to know this. In fact, every day. Okay—every minute of every day. You get the idea.
What a relief.
“I’m not afraid of failure; I’m afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.” —William Carey
“To walk out of His will is to walk into nowhere.” —C.S. Lewis, Perelandra
“Only one life, ’till soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.” —C.T. Studd
Success can be had. What lasts forever is what matters.
Have a meaning-full day.
“All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwalds, the Auschwitzes—all of them. They must remain standing because they are a monument to a moment in time when some men decided to turn the earth into a graveyard—into it they shoveled all of their reason, their logic, their knowledge, but worst of all their conscience. And the moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by its remembrance—then we become the gravediggers.” — Rod Serling, “Deaths-Head Revisited,” The Twilight Zone
While some try to deflect blood guiltiness or delete selected events from the history of hell, humanity is charged to either remember or repeat the abominations of which he has proven himself so fully capable. According to the Bible, repetition is inevitable. For now, remember—and remember whom. For thousands of years the Jews are God’s people—He said so and nothing has changed. The devil is never proven more alive and active than in his relentless malice directed at God’s own—and yet God was never proved more present or purposeful than the day He regathered His people to their own historical land after nineteen-hundred years of persecution and near annihilation.
The smoldering wreckage of the Holocaust stands in witness to God’s most astonishing hat-trick—when He fulfilled the Bible’s most absurd prophecy:
“I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.’ ” Ezek. 37:12-14
That verse is inscribed over the exit of Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial. Yes, they know it, too.
So today we remember—for like the Auschwitzes of the world, man’s most hideous efforts will one day dissolve into unimagined miracles. I read the end of the Book.