The question submitted which we’ll tackle today is one that all of us face in one form or another. In fact, it’s a question rooted in the most ancient practices of the early followers of Jesus.
Here’s the question: How can I tell/show others about Jesus when I'm not allowed to say His name in that setting? (Public schools, etc.)
Sharing our faith with others is perhaps one of the hardest and more controversial issues for a Christian. Our culture would prefer we believe what we want to but that we should keep it to ourselves. But this flies in the face of Jesus’s commission in Matthew 28 to go and make disciples of all nations. Talking to others about our faith in Jesus is challenging. What if they reject me? What if they have questions I can’t answer? What if they dismiss me or it gets awkward? I don’t know what to say. I may even get in trouble with a boss or teacher.
These are real fears. And they aren’t new. In the first few centuries after Jesus’s resurrection, his followers contended with similar things. Widespread persecution of Christians was a reality under the reign of a handful of Roman emperors. Many Christians were arrested and even killed for their faith. Such is the story of a North African upper class young woman named Perpetua who was arrested along with other friends as they were preparing for baptism. Her family begged her to renounce her faith, but she could not. She and others were lined up in the arena where wild animals were set loose on them before the impatient crowd demanded they be killed with a sword. Christians in the Roman world had to guard their faith carefully. They didn’t stand on street corners and preach, they didn’t exuberantly invite their non-Christian neighbors to church services, and they didn’t participate in large public worship gatherings. Though many were not afraid to die for their faith, they had to be wise in their displays of it.
And yet, Christianity arose and spread throughout the Roman Empire. Why? Historians and early Church leaders and writers give us some clues about the practices of the believers that attracted their pagan neighbors to faith in Jesus.
The frequent meetings and shared meals of the Christians, which included people from all walks of life (including slaves and women), was unheard of in other Roman circles. The early church was inclusive and accepting.
Visitation of the poor, the sick, and those in prison was a widespread practice of the early Christians.
They practiced hospitality toward visitors and foreigners.
The Christians collected stockpiles of food and clothing to assist those in need. They did this for other Christians but also those outside of the church and for their enemies, too.
Christians were honest and fair in business practices and refused to be dishonest.
Christians refused to retaliate against those who hurt them, they did not abort or expose infants, and they abstained from watching blood sports.
The believers practiced sexual purity and restraint which non-believers admired in opposition to the sexual perversion, affairs, abuse, and other practices popular in the pagan world.
Christians faced death because of their faith without fear.
It appears that the name of Jesus in the first few centuries of the early Church spread because of the practices and habits of the Jesus-followers. They lived like Jesus openly and their non-Christian neighbors couldn’t help but take notice. We are commanded in Scripture to make disciples. We also live in a culture that is less dangerous and more open to spiritual conversations. However, what if we focused our attention on learning from Jesus to live like Jesus? What if our practices and habits (collectively and individually) were so distinctive, loving, accepting, selfless, and generous that our friends, co-workers, and neighbors wanted to know more about the God we serve? Maybe that is a way to talk about and show others who Jesus is that would spread his fame and glory throughout our city just like it did 2000 years ago.
I love this quote from the author, Alan Kreider.
“The church in the Roman Empire was growing. The growth was not because ‘evangelism was the prerogative and duty of every church member.’ Rather, it was primarily because the Christians and their churches lived by a habitus that attracted others. The Christians’ focus was not on ‘saving’ people or recruiting them; it was on living faithfully—in the belief that when people’s lives are rehabituated in the way of Jesus, others will want to join them.”
Striving to practice these habits,
Lead Pastor, White Oak Christian Church