This is the 3rd instalment of Throw Back Thursdays (#tbt), a quick chance to briefly learn something from the story of the Christian Church. This week, let's look at two things:
1. The early church believed and expected that Jesus will come back at any time, certainly within their lifetimes.
2. So they'd do anything to ensure as many people as possible know him before he does return.
Let's take a little look at this.
If someone says to you, 'I'm heading out but don't worry I'll be back soon', we have unconscious expectations of what 'soon' means. A few hours, a couple of days, a year or two. Depending on the situation, we can make good solid guesses and assume 'soon' can be quantified. Unfortunately, the early followers of Jesus had never seen anybody ascend to heaven before, so they had no idea when Jesus would return. Quite rightly, they decided to live, speak, behave and declare the truth as if Jesus could come back at any moment, and that he probably will come back at any moment (certainly before they die).
This was the natural way of thinking. It wasn't in their minds at all that 2000 years later he still would not have returned, so they geared their whole lives towards the fact that Jesus may come back tonight or tomorrow morning, so we'd better tell as many people about him before he does come back, and we'd better make sure as many people as possible are ready for him.
So what did this look like for some of the early Christians in the first couple of hundreds of years of the church? And what can we learn from it?
1. The sheer audacious declaration of Jesus. The followers of Jesus gave their lives to speaking about Jesus to whoever would listen, and plenty of people who wouldn't listen too. Certain members of the early church had no regard for pomp or ceremony, they didn't care about how they may look to the crowds or the authorities. They felt the urgency and high importance of telling people about Jesus, so that when he comes back, they will know him.
2. They made some silly calls. Their deep concern for people to be safe in the knowledge that they were saved, led them to start baptising babies. There were other reasons for this too, but part of their of their thinking was to ensure that any babies who either died before they made a commitment to Jesus were 'covered' by being baptised, but also in the urgency of seeing the world changed for Jesus before he returned to Earth, they thought they'd get babies baptised in order that they were safe and saved just in case he returned during breakfast. The problem with this is that it isn't in the Bible. Oops.
With the benefit of hindsight now, we can see the error in this. At my church, we have 'believer baptisms', where we baptise people who are at a point to understand and have received and believed the simple message of the gospel, which as far as I'm concerned, is what the Bible says.
But through the urgency of things, the church panicked somewhat and started something outside of Jesus' teaching, as they thought they were doing the right thing.
Here's the lessons. Firstly, I know for sure that Jesus will come back to Earth one day. Do I live like it? Not with enough awareness. Do I speak to people like he may come back to tomorrow? No, most of the time I speak with them about Jesus in a way like they could choose a chocolate bar in a petrol station and it wouldn't matter too much (please no don't hate me, just trying the honest thing!). Do I live my daily life with an expectation of Jesus to show up? Not as high and expectation as I'd like. How about you?
Oh yeah then there's the whole 'baby baptism' thing. What can we take from this? I know for me my passion or fervour for something can be so strong I get blinded by the other truths I know to be right, leading me to make silly decisions. My desire to do the right thing needs to be a thought through, explored passion rather than a thoughtless, chaotic and Theologically weak passion. Blind passion can end up in stupid places. Aware, alert and eyes-wide-open passion can be both Biblical and powerfully effective. What areas of passion and urgency In your life do you need to keep your eyes wide open in to see the truth and wisdom as to how to take it forward?
Hope this is helpful anyway. Feel free to leave comments with thoughts, feedback, opinions etc. Till next time!