It’s official; I have been living in a bubble for the past two months. Alright, so this comes as no surprise to me, but I am finally seeing the reality of this. I came back to Lawrence, Kansas on Saturday and will spend time here until Monday. It’s safe to say that I haven’t forgotten the hardships I faced there for 4 years, but I have repressed them. Since being back and getting the opportunity to talk with girls with what they have been dealing with this semester, and hearing about the campus in general, I feel like my heart is right back where it was in May: feeling persecuted.
I went to coffee with one of my close friends yesterday and she was sharing with me how much she has been attacked for her faith on campus so far this semester. She continued with just sharing how difficult it is to be a Christian, to stand firm in her faith, and to fulfill the Great Commission. She was also quick to add that in the midst of the persecution that she’s feeling, she has never felt that the Spirit was more alive on the campus. I couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear! All I could think about when she was telling me all of this was: “Girl, if you only knew how the church started and what it dealt with”! Thankfully, I didn’t have to simply think that much more, I was blessed with the opportunity to share with her what we had been learning about the previous week and reassure her that everything she was feeling, the early believers have felt (to an even greater magnitude).
Sitting there in a coffee shop on Massachusetts Street, I began to explain the early church. I began with the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Christ was specific in telling the disciples that they had a duty: to spread the gift of the resurrection and to begin teaching others. The formation of the church continues through the book of Acts. The book of Acts paints a beautiful picture of what the church is supposed to look like. It is to be unified, one body, one Spirit, but different parts (see 1Corinthians 12 for more on one body and different parts). However, in the midst of this encouragement was incredible persecution. The early church faced unbelieving Jews that were out to absolutely destroy them (I think I’ve been persecuted, whew). The first martyr for the church was Stephen. He was stoned to death in Jerusalem, and from this point on the leaders of the church realized that it was time to spread outside of Jerusalem. Peter sends out many to other areas of the world, James instructs those going out in his book, and Saul is later converted to Paul and is one of the leading missionaries in that time. The early churches faced heavy persecution, heresy within them, and justifications. Therefore, letters of instruction were written to people to encourage them and to teach them how to start churches, maintain what Christ had taught in His lifetime, and to encourage them in their foundation. It’s amazing to see how far the church has come from this point, good and bad. There have been more branches that have sprouted from the church because of the dispersion in the beginning of the church. There has also been persecution throughout the years, but through those times that is when the Spirit has been alive. The irony, between what was happening then and between what my friend was describing was more than incredible.
The cycle never ends, but how encouraging that in times of persecution that is when the Spirit is most alive. The church is supposed to be an encouraging environment, the body is called to support one another in times of persecution. The greatest thing that I learned this week is how much we can learn from the times of the foundation of the church: the Lord is always faithful, we’re going to have trials, but without the those difficulties, we would never be able to rightly come together and be the church that we are called to be.
“All the believers were together and had everything in common.” Acts 2:44