I have a fair sized crush on the early church. Truth be told, I romanticize about it. The simplicity, the true camaraderie and inter-dependence, the raw and wild nature of a brand new sparkling movement – I’m into it. I’m sure you can poke plenty of holes in it, but nonetheless I think I’ll still always turn to the New Testament church as the example.
This undeniably will sound crazy – but the other day I was lamenting not being persecuted. Peter, in one of his letters to the perfect, pristine, unflawed early church wrote
“But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear what they fear, do not be frightened.’”
I’m sure lots of people have been encouraged by these words embroidered on their Bible case, but truth be told those of us in our suburban churches have little clue (note I’m not saying no clue, I’m getting better at not speaking in black & white) what those words meant to people to whom they were intended. When I see the countless Nooma-esque videos of pastors with stylized hair and warm smiles giving feel good messages I both cringe and realize how truly blessed we are.
As someone who lives just shy of two thousand years after the last bit of the Scriptures was written I have great troubles understanding the book. I know, I know, it’s God word to his people, but let’s be honest I do recreational gardening, not farming, so therefore I don’t understand plenty of parables and parallels, I didn’t grow up Jewish so I can barely understand half of what Jesus referred to AND my church isn’t being persecuted or tortured. I don’t have to hide my faith. Heck, I publish it on the internet!
I’m truly not asking to be persecuted, and I am trying to count my blessings in this regard. I’m actually fairly nervous that if I lived in the early church era I may not have made into the Bible – for I may have not been able to handle the persecution. I know this means you can question whether I’ve truly encountered Jesus – and maybe this is why I felt what I did when reading Peter’s words.
The early church didn’t shrink because it’s members were killed, this in fact only propelled its growth. This is what I was referring to when I seemed to say that people leaving the church could be good – the church seems to work best not in prosperity but under pressure.
So, am I crazy for slightly wanting persecution? Do you also lust for the early church? How do we understand letters written to people being tortured today in our church campuses in the suburbs?