Proclaiming the Exclusivity of Jesus Will Result in Persecution
If the early Christians had been prepared to have Jesus simply included in the Roman pantheon of the time, then they would have managed to avoid persecution. But they didn’t, and they couldn’t. The common greetings of the Roman world which affirmed the essential deity of Caesar as their leader and sovereign meant that as they walked in the thoroughfares with each other they would affirm on a daily basis that Caesar is Lord. And as Christians they took the opportunity to say, ‘No,’ that actually ‘Jesus is Lord.’ They were beginning to understand that every knee would finally bow to Jesus. And therefore there was a radical difference in the way in which they viewed the culture at their time.
All they had to do was simply allow Jesus to be included amongst the other deities of the time.
‘Just don’t make a fuss; just find a place for him; why do you have to be these kind of people; why do you have to make such a fuss and bother about Jesus of Nazareth? We’re perfectly happy to have a place for Jesus. Look, we already have a plinth for him, and you can put a bust of Jesus there just with the rest.’
‘No,’ they said, ‘we won’t do that.’ Then they said, ‘Well if you don’t do that, we’ll turn you upside down, we’ll stick you in the ground and we’ll set fire to you. If you don’t do that we will force you to capitulate, or you will die.’ And you’ve read enough church history to know that the context in which the affirmation of the exclusive claims of Jesus was made was one which resulted in the death of those who held most forcefully to it.
But we’re a long way away from there and today is a different day, is it not? Here we are in America. Persecution may not be physical for most of us, but it certainly is intellectual. It is social in the every day events of life. And the prevailing mood which allows us to even face this question is a mood which sets itself apart from certainties. That is, apart from every certainty except the certainty that there are no certainties. The notion that somehow or another there is truth to be discovered and to be defined is increasingly missing at every point in our society.