After the Resurrection, many tend to leave the story of God’s people alone. The Bible does not do that. The Bible gives us Acts. The Bible gives us the Pauline letters. The Bible even gives us Revelation, the book of suffering. All of these give us the record of the village of God growing into the massive movement and interacting with the world at large.
You would expect the movement, like many others, to move on from the crucified savior and forget or warp the meaning or even the events that Christ was in. Not with the Early Church. They knew what Christ had done even if they had not been present in Jerusalem during the resurrection. They knew and acted on the events we see in the Scripture.
Another reaction you expect is pure revolution. That does not happen to the Church. You would expect it, because the people of God in the Old Testament and in the inter-testamental period (the time between the Old and New Testament) take up the sword many times. Not once in the New Testament do you see the nation of God taking up the sword. The only person you see lift the sword is Peter on the Garden. After that, Peter never takes up violence again.
With these facts considered, one would wonder how the Church survived a hostile empire. The Romans did not match the Christian creed in belief or action. They even tortured and killed Christians. In the worlds eyes, the Christians had every right to fight back. Why did they not fight back? There was a strong hope that Christ would return and fight for them. Their job was not to seek power. They did not even gain things by the sword like the world did (Eph. 6:12).
In light of the recent Arab Spring, revolutions, and America’s view on violence and revenge since 2001 (and much earlier for that matter), the Bible challenges us. It says to stop seeking answers in a bullet or an army. If you are tortured today, know that God will come riding in to town to vindicate you tomorrow. If you feel the constant urge to push someone into submission, remember the role of Christ to his Church (Romans 15:7-9).
We need a more powerful ideal/reality. We need to remember that the village of God that began in Acts 2 became greater and more powerful than the empire. We need to take hold of the fact that we serve the Prince of Peace. We need to take the words of the old prayer-book more seriously:
“Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen” – Book of Common Prayer, Prayer for Peace, pg. 815.
Who is the Empire for you today? Are you seeking the Empire’s will for your life or God’s? What are you doing to be Christ to those around you?