Have you ever wondered about…? I got to thinking recently about questions that students have posed to me over the years which seemed always to be some form of semantic trap to confuse and discombobulate me as their professor, and which always have some form of residual humor embedded in the question. Examples abound.
Q. Why isn’t “phonetic” spelled the way it sounds?
Q Have you ever imagined a world without any hypothetical situations?
Q If you’re in a vehicle going the speed of light, what happens when you turn on the headlights?
Silly stuff perhaps, but then again, perhaps there is a grain of real puzzlement in the semantics of both the subject and the question. By contrast have you ever wondered about what it must have been like to have been a convert to Christianity in the first century AD?
The Rev. Neale L. Miller, Pastor at Lakeview Presbyterian Church in New Orleans preached a sermon in March of 2011, entitled “Your Life or Mine” in which he spoke about the question posed by Jesus to Nicodemus about what power is it that draws us in to our Christian beliefs.
In his sermon Pastor Neale observed that “…to be a Christian in the first century required great personal commitment and great courage. We would all like to think we would have been up to the challenge, but the fact is that one never knows how one might fare until put to the test. After Jesus’ crucifixion, when things had settled down, the followers of Christ could pretty much go about their business without too much fuss. The Romans, under whose domination the people of Palestine lived, were content to let Christians do their thing as long as they didn’t make trouble. Like our own nation, however, Rome maintained laws and rules concerning how people under its authority would act. Freedom, yes, but constraints were imposed as well.
The fact that they recognized an authority greater than the state ultimately put the Christians on a collision course with the empire. Like the Jews from whom the Christian movement was birthed, the Christians would never be fully integrated into a pagan society. For their part the Roman authorities were willing to accept that reality to a point. Rome tolerated diversity, but there were limits beyond which she would not go. Rome could be brutal to any group she perceived to be a threat to civic order. The Jews would discover just how brutal Rome could be when their first century uprising in opposition to the emperor was met with the destruction of Jerusalem and Temple.”
So let’s consider again the question. What is it that makes us be Christians?
***This article was written by one of our contributing writers: Malcolm Noden