If we are not known as a people of peace, we have no hope of becoming known as a family of love. We cannot have one without the other.
The ancient Christians were known by their love because they were a peaceable people. They made peace by caring for those no one else cared about: slaves, widows, orphans, the diseased and the impoverished. The early Christians learned this way of peace from their Master for he was the first to come close to those no one else wanted to come close to.
In Jesus’ day, there were those whom society deemed “less than”: women and children. There were those who were surely “cursed”: the blind, lame and leprous. There were the “sinners”: the tax collectors (extortionists) and the demon-possessed. In Israel, the Gentiles were “out” and the Jews were “in”. In the midst of these divisions, Jesus became peace. He was a friend of sinners, a healer to the cursed, a Father, Brother and Son to women and children. He created family where family did not exist before. His way of love was a way of peace.
Today, we are scarcely known as a people of peace so we are certainly not known by our love. This is a hard question, but it must be asked: What hope may we have of shining light when we become preoccupied with defending our rights as gun-owning citizens? It is hard to be a person of peace under such circumstances.
Yes, the early Christians were defenseless—yet this was their defense. When they were burned at the stake and thrown to the lions, people wondered how such a meek community could pose a threat to mighty Rome. Their gentle, peaceable way was indeed subversive for there were no hidden agendas, no ulterior motives. This was something the world had not seen before. They were a generous community, giving to all in need without condition. The world-system was thus dismantled by simple, unarmed peace-lovers. The imperial powers were slain not with a weapon but with love—only love from a heart of peace.
Let us learn from them. Let us follow their example.