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The earliest recorded text teaching Christianity has its roots buried deep within Judaism. The birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as the Messiah, created a new ideology of worship. The Messiah is the savior for all people and of all sins. Paul carried the message of the Messiah to the Gentiles. His missionary journeys and establishment of churches enabled the spreading of the message throughout the Roman Empire. Christianity grew in acceptance; those that believed in the Messiah separated and began to worship on their own. This marked the beginning of the split of Judaism and Christianity.
Christianity experienced many pitfalls along the path to fulfillment. As in history, today we find ourselves learning Christ’s lessons all over again. The earliest Christian worshipers endured many hardships not experienced by society today. These differences in science, technology, and lack of practicing our beliefs have caused a rift between early Christianity and Christianity today.
Christianity borrows many aspects from Judaism. The Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures were used in the early teachings, however the Christian believers interpreted the scriptures in a different manner. This interpretation leads to a fundamental shift in ideology between Jews and Christians. In addition to scripture, Christianity adopted many worship rituals practiced within the Jewish synagogue; such as prayers, baptisms, and communion. Christianity of today still practices these sacred rituals. As the Christian faith began to spread, so too did the fear the Romans had as to what was Christianity’s underlying goal.
Imperial persecution became wholesale throughout the Empire. Initially the Jewish community was the instigators of this persecution of Christians. The book of Acts outlines several incidents involving such persecution. During the decade of 60 A.D., periods of Roman persecution occurred, however this persecution was sporadic. For example, Nero was ruler of the Roman Empire, under his reign Rome was set on fire and burnt to the ground. Christians became the scapegoat for this cowardly act. Tasitus wrote that perhaps Nero himself started the blaze, as an excuse to persecute the Christians. Nero’s acts of persecution were contained within the confines of Rome.
In contrast to the persecution experienced by early Christian followers, Christianity today does not experience the level of outward persecution. Christianity is practiced in an atmosphere nearly void of violence. It was not until the reign of Constantine when Christians were authorized to practice their chosen faith. The “Ediet of Milan”(313 A.D.), gave official recognition to the Christian faith, thus ending persecution within the Roman Empire. Before Constantine’s rule, there were many rulers eager to drive out the Christians. The Emperor Trajan (98-117 A.D.) established the first official policy relating to Christians and how they should be dealt with. Diocletion and the Apologists were the last of the persecutors in this era before Constantine. This marked the end of open persecution towards Christians.
Christianity shifted as it began to grow. No longer worshiping in the darkened catacombs, Christianity was now available to all. This exposure brought many who did not believe in the true meaning of Christianity and the message of the Messiah. Heresy arose amongst the Christians. Heretics sought false beliefs as their messenger. Gnosticism and Macionism movements caused confusion and strife within the Christian community. However, the Canonization of authoritative scripture, Creeds, and the Episcopacy brought stability back to Christianity.
Today many religious denominations practice some form of worship that contradicts that of the original foundation of Christianity. In the early days of Christianity, the poor and uneducated possessed little. They lacked hope, money, or a reason to live a righteous existence. The rich aristocracies of the time were in control. It is this fundamental split that defined faith as a key element within early Christianity. If the poor did not have faith in Jesus Christ, then they had nothing at all. The salvation and faith they held so sacred provided the vehicle for all to be closer to Jesus. It was believed if one were honest, true and worshiped faithfully, one would enter the Kingdom of God at the end of life’s journey.
In our culture today we live in a society that has shifted its focus to career, money, and personal gain. We have lost much relative to our belief in Jesus Christ and his message. The scientific and technological advances in medicine have lessoned the impact that the message of the Holy Spirit that is Jesus Christ provides. Money and technology have replaced divine intervention. Tangibles have become more important than faith itself. The poor of early Christianity did not possess this capability; it was faith, and love of Jesus Christ that allowed them to endure. I believe both have a place within our society. We cannot allow technology to push aside the foundation of our beliefs. As a whole, I envision the more society advances, the more we move away from the roots of the Lord’s message. A balance between technology and Christianity is not acceptable. The tangibles we have grown accustomed to are provided for by Jesus Christ, not at the expense of his message.