Tuesday, July 20, 2010

REVIEW: "The Early Christians"

I received my copy of "The Early Christians" by Eberhard Arnold in the mail yesterday. It's a lovely hardback book with inserts and beautiful artwork throughout. Very lovingly put together.

I'm on page 109 already and I have to say I am very moved and challenged by what I've read so far. The passion of these martyrs, the convictions of these early followers of Christ regarding the poor, nonviolence, and the nature of persecution to proclaim the truth of the Gospel is humbling.

When I read how these dear people endured being flayed alive, nailed to a stake, burned to death, etc. it touches me and humbles me. It makes me wonder if I could ever do that. I think, maybe, I could handle the death part, but the torture that goes on for hours, or days, is what I think I could never endure.

One part that blessed me was the report of those who had renounced Christ under torture and how they were shown compassion and received back into the Body and comforted. I know that in some cases those who failed under persecution were put out of the Body and not allowed to return, but in several cases (documented here in this book), they were forgiven and accepted.

This blessed me a lot. Especially when those who were restored returned willingly to the court to proclaim Christ and accept persecution as part of their repentance.

Also, I loved how those in the crowd would often spontaneously offer themselves for martydom after seeing their brothers and sisters endure the flames with such joy. Amazing stuff.

It reminds me that the we have brothers and sisters in Christ who are enduring similar torture and imprisonment right now, all over the world. The Enemy has not ceased to torment the Bride of Christ. The Church has been under the sword from the very beginning. The Tribulation is now. May God have mercy on the saints who suffer in this way.

What this book makes me realize is that I have it so good. We all do here in America. We have no idea what it actually means to "live for Christ" the way our brothers and sisters do abroad. No idea.

A brother asked me on Sunday if I would consider joining him to go and encourage the persecuted church in Pakistan, Indonesia, Jordan, Sudan, China, etc. I'm honored to be asked, and I think I just might end up doing it....but it makes me wonder what I could possibly teach these people? If anything, I would go to learn from them what it truly means to live for Christ daily in the face of real persecution.

I'm barely through the first third of this book and already I know that it has the potential to change my perspective in radical ways. If nothing else, I know that it encourages me to die more to myself every day and to follow Jesus with greater humility.


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