Two-thousand years ago, the church fathers started to preach and teach the good news of the Kingdom of God to other cities outside Jerusalem. This is a response to the Great Commission of Christ before His ascent.
Some went to Europe, Africa, and the far-east; also, a number of Christ’s followers stayed in Jerusalem to gather the rest of Israel into salvation. To many, preaching the good news wasn’t as simple as it seems to be in our contemporary time. In many cases, they have to travel for weeks to reach their newly planted churches and minister to the members of that congregation. Because of the political-religious landscape and its stance on Christianity, many followers of Christ were persecuted and killed, usually in the Roman Coliseum, torn and eaten by ravenous wild beasts.
Consequently, the persecution and numbers of martyrs profusely increased while the Roman Empire doubled its efforts on seeking to annihilate the Christian movement. Instinctively, the church needed to go underground, to hide and to save what’s left of them. They hid in catacombs, climbed mountains to get outside the radar of the Roman Empire, and devised codes by which they could identify whether a person was a follower of Christ or not.
Soon enough, in A.D. 313, the Edict of Milan declared toleration towards the Christian religion; in fact, even the Emperor Constantine was converted to Christianity when he saw a flaming cross in the sky bearing the words, saying, “In this sign, thou shalt conquer” which still is controversial in the opinion of many historians and scholars.
Perhaps, this was the main turning point in Early Christianity – the freedom to worship and speak out-loud of what an individual or a movement believes in and the freedom to also detach and separate one’s self from the Supreme.
With all efforts to objectively see through this phenomenon, Christianity significantly evolved in our contemporary day. Persecutions and martyrdom have been popularly rebuked and condemned by most; freedom to worship is almost everywhere, except, of course, in Muslim countries like Middle East and Southeast Asia.
In most cases, being a Christian is an advantage. It is very much celebrated today unlike 2000 years ago, when Christians were beheaded or crucified just because they declared their faith in Jesus Christ. They knew that their lives were at risk and that death was always imminent. So they really knew that following Christ doesn’t come near to bed of roses and peace.
In Luke 9:58, it says, “Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.’”
Following Christ is not a walk in the park because as we follow Him, burdens of seeing a broken world would make us move and bear our own cross, enough to deny ourselves of the wants and individualistic desires that we aim to reach for ourselves.
Religious freedom and tolerance doesn’t really matter because it’s not the main reason by which God’s people will thrive. It is rather by the constant, the truth that once fueled the early believers and the truth that lives within us today. Thousands of believers still risk their lives to reach remote areas that haven’t heard of God’s good news of salvation and thousands still die for this cause.
Via Veritas Vita, do we really believe in Him? Or has it just become a mere slogan of our university? Does it still mean something in the depths of our being? Or do we just know these things to be religious in nature? And we tried the best we can to separate ourselves from it because of the shifting values and trends of the 21st century. Should we live by faith? Or stay under a house built on sinking sand?