“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” ~Romans 12:9-21
Hold on one minute! Is that what a Christian’s life is supposed to look like? In reviewing this list, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. It seems impossible that a community could live up to that, right?
I thought the same thing until recently I read “The Manners of the Christians”, written in 200 AD. It’s a description of how Christians looked and what they acted like in the ancient world (read excerpt below).
THE MANNER OF THE CHRISTIANS (written in 200 A.D.)
“For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrine. But inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply are sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws of their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and blessed; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honor; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.”
As I read this description, I realized that not only is it possible, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to live the life described in Romans, but it has been done. Not only has it been done, but living life in this manner changed the world.
Mind you, life for a Christian in 200 AD was no picnic. Christians were quite randomly and sporadically put to death and persecuted as local authorities saw fit, often times to redirect attention from a sticky political or social issue of the time. Still, the courageous yet humble lives of the early church caused the message of God’s mercy and grace, through the death and resurrection of Christ, to be known in every corner of the earth and for centuries after.
The early church responded in unexpected ways. They responded in this way because they had a deep rooted knowledge that they belonged to a God who is faithful – a God they trusted no matter what the earthly atmosphere dictated. It was a volatile age, but they served an everlasting, never-changing King. Their actions didn’t just change the ancient world, but it changes our world here in 2018.
What could happen today, if God’s people standing on the platform of our ancestors’ legacy of faith, devoted ourselves to living like this? I want to find out, don’t you?
Christ Fellowship member