Christianity was born in a hostile environment. The Roman Empire was full of all kinds of people with all kinds of beliefs and practices. It was held together by a powerful military and the demand of giving allegiance to the emperor above all. Christians were considered oddballs. They believed in only one God. But everyone in Rome knew that every tribe of people had its own gods. Christians believed that a peasant preacher from a small town had been executed but then raised from the dead. But educated Romans knew that people don’t rise from the dead.
Many people have noted the parallels between ancient Rome and modern day America. And we know from experience that modern day America is a hostile place for Christianity. The world believes that our morality and religious ideas are out-of-date. They are convinced that we are uneducated and unwilling to accept the world as it is.
Against this hostility, many Christians wish to force a return to the cultural Christianity that dominated American life in the middle of the 20th century. We are tempted to fight the battle in the courts and through politics.
It took a few centuries, but Christianity became the dominant religion in the ancient Roman Empire. But Christians did not win over that world through political victories. Christians won the hearts and minds of the people of ancient Rome by being faithful Christians. Jesus had said that his faithful followers would be people who fed the hungry, clothed the naked and visited the sick. The Christians of ancient Rome were the ones who tended to people in prison and found food for the poor and starving. Christians received and took care of the sick and dying. Eventually, the Romans’ admiration for their faithfulness overcame the prejudice against their faith.
The ancient Roman world was won to Christian faith by love. The modern American world will be won the same way. When the world sees us as angry and hostile, they will ignore us. They need to see us living faithfully in the gospel we claim to believe. As Jesus said, “Light your light shine so that they will see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
Love in Christ,
Pastor, Rocky River Baptist Church