How do we respond when world situations that are out of our control move Christians toward a despised status in society? This question has been asked countless times by followers of Jesus who want to know where they fit in an increasingly secular society. It is a fair question that is answered by the Bible.
The 1st Century followers of Jesus faced a very similar reality. Due to events that were out of their control, including the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD, they were relegated to a despised status that created great stress and hardship. They were scapegoats for society’s anger and unrest. Even non-Christians, like Tacitus (Annals 116 AD), were shocked by the quick turn of events that triggered hatred toward Christians. “Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.”
These events in the 1st Century would seem terrible enough to crush Christianity altogether. However, the church did not only survive, it thrived and grew! The letters that were written to encourage the early church are just what the modern church needs to read. So, to answer the original question I posed, search the Scriptures, specifically books that were written after the Great Fire in 64 AD. Here are some suggestions: 2 Timothy teaches about perseverance, 2 Peter teaches about purity and hope, Jude tells us to fight false teachers and apostasy, the Gospel of John and 1 John remind us to maintain love as a testimony to Christianity, 2 John and 3 John caution us to be discerning in our relationships, and The Revelation unveils the final chapter in God’s plan of redemption.
If you are troubled by recent world events; if you sense a dramatic shift in society’s attitude toward your Christian faith; if you wonder where you fit and how you should relate in contemporary culture, then search the Scriptures. Watch the words jump off the page as you realize how much you have in common with 1st Century Christians. Do not doubt this closing statement: The Bible is absolutely relevant to the 21st Century church!