No this post is not about anything in today’s world. There are some Christians who are on evangelism missions abroad who are doing risky things but for the most part Christians are pretty well settled down in their safe lives much like everyone else in this country. But that definitely was not the case for many in the early church.
Here are some words about early Christians doing very risky things to show that they were followers of Jesus and were intent on following his examples. This quote is from A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story by Diana Butler Bass.
During the second century’s great epidemic, known as the Plague of Galen (165–180), in which hundreds of thousands of people died in the streets, Christians proved their spiritual mettle by tending to the sick. As Bishop Cyprian of Carthage would later claim, that plague was a winnowing process, in which God’s justice was shown by “whether the well care for the sick, whether relatives dutifully love their kinsfolk as they should, whether masters show compassion for their ailing slaves, whether physicians do not desert the afflicted.” Because they did not fear death, Christians stayed behind in plague-ravaged cities while others fled. Their acts of mercy extended to all the suffering regardless of class, tribe, or religion and created the conditions in which others accepted their faith. Christianity succeeded because it “prompted and sustained attractive, liberating, and effective social relations and organizations.” Translated from sociologist-speak, that means Christians did risky, compelling, and good things that helped people.
The basis of this story is centered around the early Christian concept of hospitality. Hospitality is defined as the practice of welcoming those whom Jesus calls “the least of these” into the heart of community. It was a central theme in the early church. Lets review those Bible verses about the least of these.
Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. (Matt. 25:34–36)
This testimony represents Jesus’s notion of hospitality. It seems that so many Christian congregations put up walls against the “least of these” instead of welcoming them. From personal experiences I know churches do occasionally have a project usually around Christmas or Thanksgiving where they collect canned goods and such and some even buy small gifts for a needy family. While this is a good first small step it does little to satisfy the actual overall need. It is estimated that church giving accounts for about 3% of the overall need of the poor and homeless. The other 97% is usually met by our government.
If only today’s churches took to heart the words of Jesus to even a small degree of the early Christians our government would not have to do as much in our place.