The history of the Christian faith began in the Apostolic Age (about 30 A.D), following the resurrection of Jesus Christ, in Palestine with a small number of Jews and Jewish Proselytes. It was later dubbed illegal by the Romans; hence Christians suffered persecution for 300 years. As a result, Apostles Peter and Paul were martyred at the hands of the Roman emperor Nero around 64 CE.
Eventually, Christianity was legalized by Constantine the Great in the early 4th century. By 300 CE, Christianity became the accepted religion of Rome.
As converts to Christianity increased, the faith also spread to most parts of the world through missionaries. Catholics journeyed to Central and South America to convert natives while Protestants escaping persecution voyaged to North America, transporting with them their dogmas. Taking advantage of European colonization, Christian missionaries also took the gospel to India and Africa accordingly. By 1900, Christianity had reached every continent.
Currently, Christianity is ranked as the world’s largest religion, making up one-third of the world population.
Like every child born to devout Christian parents, I was raised in the tenets of the faith. I was privileged to learn more about my faith and its history in Sunday School, and more importantly in a Bible School. Furthermore, I got to learn about how Christianity is being used by people to do what they fully intend to think and do in societies like Nigeria and The Unites States of America.
For one thing, the African slave trade was almost entirely conducted by Christians who bought and sold slaves. From the pulpit, Protestant preachers, mostly from Southern Baptist, defended the practice of, and dependence upon slavery to prosper the economic engine of the South. How is it that a people who preached the message of love in Jesus Christ took the time to defend what was precious to them, and did as convenient for them instead of as commanded by the teachings of the faith?
The answer to the foregoing question is simple: Christianity was used to advance economic and political agenda in that era by appealing to people’s religious propensity. The ignored a truth that the grace of God is never a license to treat others shamefully or even look down upon them.
Forgetting that the United States policies have made America’s religious and racial landscape chiefly diverse, conservative Christians in America campaigned using a portion of the Christian faith in the just concluded elections. Their discourse was dominated by the catchphrase “America has lost its Christian heritage and needs to get it back”. They further gained sympathy from most Africans who share their views that morality and Christianity are under attack.
Truly, morality is under attack and Christianity is the world’s most persecuted religion. But Christianity does not excuse being recondite or political with the truth.
However, there is a need to recall that the constitutional firewall called the separation of church and state was adopted to prevent the state from supporting the church with taxes, and in return, the church would have no role in appointing public office holders. This principle, enacted to prevent the church and the state from encroaching on each other’s space, made America a society solely governed by secular law. This is currently causing a rift as to who decides what is moral or immoral, or what is right or wrong. Another problem here is that while the separation of church and state and freedom of religious expression are embraced by many, the respective application in policies and politics remains difficult for them to buy into.
Things that are legally permissible may, to the Christian, be religiously intolerable. But even so, an interpretation of a Christian principle has tied Christians to controversial policies and politicians. Even more, scriptures have been ripped out of context and completely misapplied to make many believe in a twisted logic that it is our responsibility to be the world’s policemen.
Anyway, as we argue over whose duty it is to decide on policies and economics in America, there is need to consider the biblical prophecy about the times we live in.
The Bible records the following warning for Christians in 2 Timothy 3:1-5: “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power.”
This scripture theorizes that persecution is to be expected. In spite of this, The Bible, in Matthew 5:4, also says “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” We are commanded by Jesus Christ to forgive our enemies, love, bless, and pray for those who mistreat us.
In practical terms, however, the world is challenged in very many ways especially in the area of love as hatred is behind the growing ethno religious wars claiming lives globally.
This is the right time for the true mark of Christianity to thrive, given that the intrinsic purpose of our Christian walk lies in how we pass on or reflect God’s love to others. 1 John chapter 4 verse 8 says “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love”. We need to quit pursuing our aspired version of Christianity and live out God’s love.
“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” – Luke 6:35
Instead of using Christianity as a tool for political and racial witch hunting, it is time for us Christians to renew efforts in applying the principles of grace and love as engendered in the Bible while preparing for the rapture.