Yet [Christians] could not be called crafty or deceptive. In fact, they were gullible fools. The worshipers of "that crucified sophist" Jesus, wrote the pagan writer Lucian, could easily be bilked by a few confident men. They set so little store by their possessions that "if any charlatan and trickster, able to profit by it, came among them, he quickly acquired sudden wealth by imposing upon these simple folk."Is it not sad how none of the above testimony is held true for North American Christians today, yet is evidenced all over the third-world countries? The more I pay attention to what the Bible says, and the more I examine early Christianity and Christianity in every part of the modern world except for North America, the more convicted I am of just how un-Christian I, as well as every other North American Christian, truly am. Would I allow myself to be gullible for the sake of Christ and not put any stock in my possessions? Would I realize that they hold no intrinsic value for me and that if someone were to ask or demand them from me, I should part with them with ease? I can only pray that some day I reach such a point. As of this present moment, unfortunately, I am as selfish and greedy and in love with my possessions as the next North American Christian. We place such immense value and concern on things that the early Christians counted as loss for the sake of knowing Christ (Phil. 3:8). Even during the Reformation we read the same kind of information. Pick up a copy of the documentary Monumental and give it a watch. Would we be willing to do those kinds of things for our God? I cannot help but be ashamed of my vain profession of faith and the unbelief that clings to it. The book of Acts spells it out clearly and informs us that "all that believed were together, and had all things common" (Acts 2:44). We see this in the above historical testimony. We see it everywhere except for North America and in our own hearts. I cannot help but ask, Why?
Finally and beyond all that, their community even within itself appeared to lack all proper respect for things like title, social status, education, gender. They did not seem to realize that any society must be structured. They treated one another as equals, sometimes even their slaves. It was shocking. Small wonder Christianity held such appeal to the lower classes and, of course, to silly women. Small wonder, too, that responsible people of rank, senators and statesmen, saw their ideas as a threat. They were. How long could Rome last if fantasies like this took hold?
However, the really grave offense of the Christians, the one for which they would be expelled, enslaved, and executed, was their atheism—that is, their effrontery in denying Rome's twelve gods, within the very walls of the city. ... Christians, therefore, could be charged with atheism at any time.
They similarly distinguished themselves by their support for the needy, the sick, for widows and orphans. They consistently networked. The wealthier employed the needy, preferred their brethren in business, and opened their houses as meeting places, adorning the walls with frescoes and the floors with mosaics showing communion loaves, chalices, praying figures, and such symbols of Christ as lambs and fish. The Christians were their own mutual-aid society that transcended class. ...and since most of them were converts, they stood in marked contrast not only to their neighbors but also to their former selves. As [Justin Martyr] wrote: "We who formerly delighted in fornication now embrace chastity alone; we who formerly used magical arts, dedicated ourselves to the good and unbegotten God; we who valued above all things the acquisition of wealth and possessions, now bring what we have into common stock and share with everyone who is in need; we who hated and destroyed one another and, on account of their different customs would not live with men of a different race, now, since the coming of Christ, live on excellent terms with them and pray for our enemies."1
On the subject of forgiveness, Jesus said, "If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him" (Luke 17:3-4). In response, Peter asked the no doubt perplexed question, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?", to which Jesus replied, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven" (Matt. 18:21-22). Ironically, seventy times seven is 490, the same length of time God declared upon Israel until their final and utter rejection of the Messiah. Professing Christians would do well to read Jesus' words repeatedly. I have had people ask me if they have to continually forgive someone who deliberately and repeatedly keeps sinning against them. Maybe this should serve as incentive: "And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. ... For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions" (Matt. 6:12, 14-15). To not forgive is to hold a grudge, which will only fill you with bitterness and hatred. If they sin against you deliberately, forgive them and pray for them.
John Reuben's song Thank You says "You know I'll turn the other cheek but see, I've only got two. So spit in my face one more time and let's just see what I do." Thousand Foot Krutch's song Get Wicked says "I can be nice, but don't test me" and "Don't mistake kindness for weakness" and "Step up, I'll bring you down." None of these statements are consistent with Christian attitudes. These attitudes are anti-Christ. They are not Christian. They all contradict what Scripture says, and the attitudes witnessed from the historical account above. Christians today argue that we should not let others walk all over us like door mats. Where do you find this sentiment in Scripture? This attitude is steeped in rebellion and self-preservation. What did Jesus say? "For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it" (Matt. 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; 17:33). Jesus made it clear when He said, "do not resist him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also" (Matt. 5:39). Paul's exposition of this teaching expressed that we should "Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY," says the Lord. ... Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom. 12:17-19, 21).
Professing Christians today repeatedly ask the questions "How many times should I forgive the same person?" and "How many times should I turn my cheek to the same person?" They want a number so that they can stop doing these things at that point, so that they can check off their little box that says they have done that. That is not following Christ. It is wanting to follow Him to a certain point and no further. Jesus was basically telling them that they need to do these things without end. When Jesus was beaten, spit upon, and mocked, did He retaliate? Did He defend Himself? No! He was silent before His accusers. Professing Christians also ask the question, "What if someone is trying to take advantage of me and asks me to...?" What does the Bible say, Christian? Where is your treasure? Is it in your possessions, which moths and rust can destroy and thieves can steal? Or is it in heaven, being Christ Jesus Himself? If someone wants to take advantage of you, let them. Thank them. Forgive them. Pray for them. It may be that in your selfless generosity that they come to know the Saviour. Having said that, professing Christians will raise all sorts of illogical arguments such as, "So if they want to rape your daughter, you just let them?" Why do these people try and relate items of an unrelated nature? My guess is so that they can continue in disobedience.
Read the above testimony of historical Christianity again and pay very close attention to it: "In fact, [Christians] were gullible fools. The worshipers of "that crucified sophist" Jesus, wrote the pagan writer Lucian, could easily be bilked by a few confident men. They set so little store by their possessions that "if any charlatan and trickster, able to profit by it, came among them, he quickly acquired sudden wealth by imposing upon these simple folk."". Christians should especially be looking out for other Christians: providing work for them; meeting their needs; sharing their own possessions with them. Why is it that every Christian throughout history had no problem doing these things, yet North American Christians refuse? This puts me in mind of Matthew 25:31-46. Will North American Christians be guilty of verses 41-46?
1 The Christians: Their First Two Thousand Years, Vol. 2: A Pinch of Incense, 66-70.