Christians At Ease?
Thoughts on the First Readings
Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20
John wrote his letter to the Christians in Asia Minor (today’s Turkey) to assure them of Jesus’ rescue from the hardships they were enduring under Rome’s emperors. Some of these folks faced social and economic ostracism; others, situations much more lethal.
Rome didn’t much care for Jews who insisted on a single God. Rome claimed divinity for its Caesars. Most Romans thought Jew’s refusal to burn a bit of incense before the emperor’s likeness quirky at best and, more likely, crazy. The risk for refusing such a petty tribute was too great. It was un-Roman, not to mention impractical, not to go along to get along.
Christians, seen by most as merely heretical Jews, were viewed as not only nuts like all Jews but trouble-makers as well since they caused tension, even open hostility, within the Jewish community. The empire simply couldn’t abide civil unrest in its provinces. It was bad for business; bad for Rome.
John encouraged his brother and sister Christians to stay faithful to Christ assuring them that Rome would end up on the ash heap of history while they would live in eternal glory.
All this sounds quaint two thousand years later. Rome is still around though it hardly bestrides the world in grandeur. America, for the moment anyway, is the big bestrider. And we Christians dominate her religious landscape. It’s been a long time since anyone had her business confiscated or was tossed to angry lions for following Jesus. When some of us were in college, there was a popular poster that read: If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to prosecute you? Is today’s world in such harmony with Christ’s Spirit that Christianity blends in smoothly? Has the Christian way gained such ascendance in modern life that no one dares bother those who travel it?
Are people simply too sophisticated today to harasses or persecute anybody thus allowing even Christians free rein to live as they choose?
What’s going on here? Why do we have it so cushy compared to those who began it all?