What is our message as the church? Is it church growth? Is it to convince people that we’re right and they are wrong? Is it social issues such as anti-war or support of political parties? Is it to end hunger? Is it to stop terrorism and spread democracy?
In Justin’s time, the message was about “the Kingdom”. His definition of the kingdom mirror’s Jesus’…but does it mirror ours? Do we live like we belong to another kingdom…like Someone bigger than us is watching? Just wondering.
Chapter XI.-What Kingdom Christians Look for.
All our talk about looking for a kingdom has some people worried, but if you would have just asked us, we could have explained everything clearly. When we talk about a kingdom, we aren’t threatening Rome, and we certainly aren’t thinking of ourselves as insurgents who will overthrow the Roman government. Please listen to us; we are not talking about a kingdom on this earth, a human kingdom. We are talking about God’s realm, a kingdom in heaven. That’s why those who confess to being Christians (even when it means their life) can be so brave, because we believe we will go to that kingdom when we leave this earth. If we deny Christ to keep from being killed, we run the risk of not getting into the kingdom we’ve been looking for all this time. We aren’t so concerned with our present life because we are all going to die someday. For that reason, we place a greater emphisis on what happens after death.
Chapter XII.-Christians Live as Under God’s Eye.
We are on your side when it comes to being peaceful citizens obeying the law (probably more than any other people group). Our belief that God is watching everything we do and will hold us accountable if we are stealing or working against lawful authorities. That becomes our motive for right living because we want our lives to match up with the salvation we hope to receive. If people only knew what was coming when this life is over, they would restrain themselves and follow God’s way of living. If they knew what judgment awaits the wicked, they’d bail on the way they’ve been living without a second thought.
Laws and punishments don’t really stop people from committing crimes anyway. They are only obstacles to sneak by for those who are intent on breaking the law. Criminals know that laws are enforced by finite people; they know they can get away with crimes because you can’t be everywhere and you can’t see everything. But if those who commit crimes only knew the truth, that God sees everything, not only the stuff that is actually carried out but the crimes committed in the mind and heart as well, they’d be the best citizens you have in the Empire. You have to admit, the fear of God’s judgment is a powerful inhibiter when it comes to crime.
Yet knowing this, you still arrest us. It’s as though you’re worried you’ll be out of a job if everyone starts obeying the laws of the land. I could see bounty hunters being concerned about a drop in the crime rate, but not good civil servants such as you. It only serves to confirm our conviction that this present hatred is being stirred up by evil, spiritual forces behind the scenes, the same kind of forces that demand homage and sacrifices from the gullible masses. You, however, are known for pursuit of the truth, so I assume you won’t go along with this unreasonable hatred just because the crowds are.
If you still are more persuaded by tradition than the facts, I fear you undermine your royal estate. Those who make rulings to appease popular opinion as a means of maintaining their power base have more in common with mobsters than royalty.
God’s Word to us, Jesus, has promised us that no matter what you do, you will not succeed in destroying us. That’s why we serve Him, because we consider Him to be the best King of all. No sensible person would follow their father’s footsteps if they knew that the way he lived leads to certain poverty. That’s why we refuse the way of life we used to live, and now we live for the Good King. Everything that is happening to us now, He told us would happen. He could see it coming because He the Son of God, the Messenger of God who is Ruler over all things. He is Jesus, the Christ and we follow Him (which is why you call us Christians)! Since this prejudice against us has come to pass, just as He told us it would, we are all the more convinced that everything else He told us is true. Surely you can understand our conviction in light of His accurate forecast of our future.
I could end my defense here, since I believe I’ve supplied enough of an argument that we only want to be heard, and afforded our lawful rights. That should be enough to convince you that this issue needs far more consideration than is presently being given. Yet I also know that it’s not easy to change someone’s mind once they are convinced of something. So for those who are interested in really knowing the truth about us, I will continue this letter and add more evidence to my case, hoping that an illumination of the facts will bring this time of ignorance to an end.