questions facing the early church

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I'm watching a fascinating documentary called "from Jesus to Christ: the First Christians". It is all about the cultural setting that Jesus was born into. It also follows His ministry, crucifixion, and the aftermath for the newly formed community of the followers of Christ. It's about a four hour documentary and I'm only two hours in, but already I've seen some fascinating stuff I wanted to talk about. The thing that struck me was that the early church faced many of the same questions that I face as a follower of Christ who wishes to be true to my faith while maintaining cultural relevance. Check this out. One of the commentators was talking about the struggles of the first generation of Christ followers, much of which is documented in the book of Titus. They had several questions that they had to sort out:

How Greek am I to be?
How Roman am I to be?
How Jewish am I to be?

When read in context these questions mean this:

How Greek am I to be, how strongly do I identify with my nationality, race, and heritage?
How Roman am I to be, what is my place in the political scheme of things?
How Jewish am I to be, do I have to be a religious person in order to be a follower of Christ?

These are the problems that the followers of Christ faced as they asked themselves, "what is my place in today's prevailing culture?"

These are relevant questions for today. I see a sense of national pride in the USA, and have seen the terms "American" and "Christian" used interchangeably, yet many things that are done in the name of the good 'ole USA are not Christlike at all. Should I speak up, even if I seem unpatriotic? I've seen churchgoers used as political collateral, and told en masse who to vote for by someone in leadership who has done all the thinking for them. Do I follow the rest of the sheep, or do I rock the boat? Is it even my place to be talking about politics? I've also seen so many people who love Christ but want nothing to do with organized religion. Is there a place for them in Christianity? How "religious" do we need to be?

One of the first major controversies that the early church faced was based on the last question. How Jewish am I to be? With the spread of the gospel of Christ came new converts. The first question a heathen (gentile) convert must ask themselves is,"must I become Jewish (religious) in order to be a follower of Jesus?" Did they have to take on the Jewish rites? Did they have to follow the letter of the Levitical law? Did they have to leave behind all connections to their family and their community? Did they have to become circumcised so that they could take on the appearance of the Jews? Did they have to look religious in order to be a follower of Christ?

I knew it would be interesting to watch this documentary but it was fascinating to me to discover that I could relate to some of the same questions that they faced.

How American am I to be? Do I have to stand by everything that is done in the name of the USA even if I feel like it is contrary to what is true, and right, and Godly?
How Political am I to be? When I decide to become a Christian do I vote with the rest of churchianity and leave thinking to the qualified?
How Religious am I to be? I hate neckties. I like beer. I cuss every now and then. Do I really have to listen to that music? Do I have to learn to talk like other christians? What the hell does "traveling mercies" mean anyway?

I truly love Jesus Christ, and I really want to live my life in a way that would honor Him. So I struggle my way through these questions because I really want to know:

What is my place in today's prevailing culture?


jarred d said...

very challenging questions. at first i have the tendency to answer something like "i don't have to be anything, other than living up to the character instilled in me by God". which is true, but in all honesty, its a dis-connect for me, excusing myself from looking inward to insure i am doing just, that being who God wants me to be. asking myself those types of questions (when i take time too)provides something to measure myself against, searching for defencies. this only works when i am honest with myself, and allow the holy spirit to convict when its time. that has always been the trick...jarred d

Stephen G said...

Interesting stuff. Very relevant questions; maybe the ones we should be asking while at church or something.

P.S. Is "Churchianity" a real word?

Hidden Valley Girl said...

Very good blog Jimmy!! What great questions that all of us have asked! (at least I have!) I would love to find out where I can rent/buy that documentary!

P.S. I'm with ya on the "traveling mercies" word!! Is that even a biblical term?!?!?! ;)

jimmy said...

Nikki you can buy the series here:
It's kind of expensive so see if you can rent it somewhere first, or come by next time you're in Santa Rosa and I'll loan it to you.

Stephen, Churchianity is a term I like to use for the people that are in the church for social, and cultural reasons rather than for spiritual growth.

ben said...

Hey bro, great article.

I think that these questions are probably the most valid and valuable questions that a forward-thinking Christian can ask themselves and/or others; too bad that the majority of Church leadership don't want to discuss these questions because they are Empowering Questions with Liberating Answers. There is a reason that church-goers are referred to as SHEEP – too often they follow blindly and trust completely without questioning anything more than when they will get to “eat” again.

I want to ask the hard questions!
I want to push the issue and make people uncomfortable!
I can't remember one time in the Bible that Jesus was the most popular guy to every single person, group or club; in fact he was the leader of the Anti-Establishment! BUT, he was the first to tell his leaders to give Caesar what he was owed.
To answer these questions for myself I have to look at Jesus THE MAN and how he lived his life...Was he Religious? Was he Political? Was he Patriotic? Was he Culturally Relevant?
To me the answer to all of these questions is a resounding YES...He didn't look to anyone else to make his life easier or more definable and he chose to fully invest himself in the life and culture he was born into - while still being he was destined to be - But he STILL wasn't accepted by the "status quo"!!

I'd love to see this show, do you know what it was called exactly? Maybe I can tivo it next time it's on.

TGL said...

"What is my place in today's prevailing culture?" This is the theme of your blog, is it not?

I struggle with those questions too. Sometimes I go against the flow, other times I may seem like a simple sheep going along with the crowd. Some may just be sheep, but some just look it. It is possible to think through an issue and come to the same conclusion as the large group....so this makes me a thinking sheep I guess.

Baa Baa

Natala said...

thanks jimmy... i struggle with these questions a lot...
thanks for the info on the documentary.

Jeff said...

such can only be discussed in certain genuine atmospheres. I find that with brothers such as your self, a Honey Brown Ale, and a Cuban sets the mood.

we need to look in the eyes when we discuss such. for such is laced with passion and misfortune.

passion of this caliber need be seen and heard.

although, reading the excitement and desire in your's and bens words seem to set a certain...

Homebrewer said...

I don't think Jesus was culturally who anyone wanted Him to be. Pretty much everyone was dissapointed in Him.

I think it is easier for us to believe that we "have to" be culturally identifiable as Christians. If we wear the clothes, listen to the music, avoid the wrong people, and listen to the right people, everyone will see that we are Christians and know that we are "doing well". It is easier because we can avoid having to make any tough decisions. As long as we have the approval of man there is no need to think for ourselves.

I say when in doubt rock the boat.

Jarred D said...

i think somebody likes the word "such" and such j/k jeff...jarred

Jeff said...


Chickadeeva said...

Kudos to you! I just blogsurfed to you and found your posts insightful. Keep on questioning. God is fascinated by our fascination :-)