Infectious Christianity

It’s 111AD and Plinius Caecilius the Roman governor of Bithynia (modern-day Istanbul) has a problem on his hands. He’s been faced with a secret group of religious believers, a group he has not had to deal with before, a group that will not follow the religion of the people and the country. Looking for help he writes to the Roman Emperor Trajan:

“It is my custom, Lord emperor, to refer to you all questions whereof I am in doubt … In investigations of Christians I have never [before] taken part; hence I do not know what is the crime usually punished or investigated, or what allowances are made. ”

Whilst waiting for advice from the Emperor on how to proceed, he decides for himself on what to do for the time being:

“Meantime this is the course I have taken with those who are accused before me as Christians. I asked them at their own lips whether they were Christians, and if they confessed, I asked them a second and third time with threats of punishment. If they kept to it, I ordered them for execution”

Plinius stresses the danger of this new religion:

“The matter seemed to me worth deliberation especially on account of the number of those in danger; for many of all ages and every rank, and even of both sexes are brought into present or future danger”

But even though it’s so infectious, he is confident  it won’t last too long, that it can be stopped:

“The contagion of that superstition has penetrated not the cities only, but the villages and country: yet it seems possible to stop it and set it right.”



So, did Plinius manage to stop this evil sect from spreading even further, did he manage to “set it right”? Well, the fact that I am sitting here in Lewis writing this shows that they failed in that task.
The Romans had suppressed many other sects and religions (some who resisted violently), so why did they struggle so much with this peaceful, small group of people?

These early Christians (men and woman, boy and girls) suffered awful persecutions (which we can look at in the future). Our brothers and sisters today still face awful persecutions, so how do they endure it all? How has the Church survived and grown through all these years?

The reality is that although there have been many brave Christians throughout the centuries, people who were willing to live in poverty and die in pain for the glory of God; the spread of the Gospel and the preservation of the Church did not rely even on them.
Instead let’s see what Paul concludes when he ponders the care & love of God for his people, the Church:

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
-Romans 8:38-39

Nothing will stop the Gospel, not violence, governments, laws, false teachings or the many other religions in our world.
God knows his people, God saves his people, God keeps his people. This is as true now as it was 2000 years ago. 

[The text of the letter from Pliny to Trajan is taken from “Selections from Early Christian Writers” pp.27-31, H. M. Gwatkin]

Five misused Bible verses

“We are nothing more than the result of evolution, born out of primordial ooze which started on a planet in a universe that was nothing more than a collection of elements that came from a random expansion some 14 billion years ago.”
This is a quote from my last post, as it is quoted here this would probably result in more than a  few questions from my brothers and sisters, and possibly from my minister?
On closer inspection of the original post you will see that this was in the context of those with no belief in a creator God, and not my own personal views.
In all forms of media and communication , context is everything. It forms the simple difference between:
“…the fire burnt for the rest of the night and was seen from the next village…”
and
“After the fireworks display and the barbeque were done, the fire burnt for the rest of the night and was seen from the next village, as the celebrations continued.”

Those who attack the word of God often like to quote the Bible out of context, either intentionally or through ignorance of the wider context.
But the fact is that Christians are also guilty of cutting down the word of God into tweet-sized pieces, and in doing so, ripping the verses out of it’s original context in order to fit in with the point we are trying to make.
I am not saying that we must always quote the whole paragraph or chapter, some verses are perfectly clear  when they are quoted as a single verse.
The problem arises when we cut and snip the text into verses which sound great, and which might well carry some truth about God, but which do not reflect the full meaning  or the context of the passage that we snatched them from.

Starting with Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered…”, we can go on to look at five commonly misused Bible verses.