In the first century, Jesus of Nazareth walked into history and left an impact that reverberated throughout the world. No one before had left such a mark. In the wake of his short, amazing life, an surge of change exploded out towards the ends of the earth, and dispelled a thousand years of darkness and oppression.
For several hundred years afterwards, this Messianic movement, proclaiming Jesus and his lifestyle, was the brightest and most liberating force on earth. It proclaimed the reconciliation of God and man, the forgiveness of humanity’s sins, the removal of death, the equality of all races and genders and social strata, and the identity of humanity as co-workers with God.
It alone showed a path towards peace and justice for the oppressed peoples of the world. It made no compromises: for Jesus, the means were the ends. The way of Jesus was to achieve peace by individually and deliberately ceasing violence ourselves.
This Jesus movement wasn’t looking for a utopia. It was the utopia, if such a thing could even be discussed. Within their social circles, slaves and slaveholders were friends and equals. Men and women conversed freely and openly, and races and nationalities were united in a way never before seen in human history.
This movement was a light to the world, shaking the foundations of every institution in every nation. The outsiders, seeing this drastically different order being embodied in their midst, were shaken to their core. Governments began to crumble and fall.
The natural result of this world-wide disruption was a series of takeover attempts that culminated in Emperor Constantine’s assumed conversion. The empire legalized Christianity, and then began the process of regulating it, turning it into a tool for the enhancement of state power. Christianity, the movement, was never the same.
Nevertheless, the truth still remains, and the message is still available for anyone who wants it. Individuals throughout history have glimpsed pieces of the message, even when they didn’t fall into the accepted Christian groups. These individuals grasped hold of what they saw, and ended slavery, abolished discrimination, fought violence with non-violence, and worked to transform the world.
This effort is ongoing, and today remains in our hands. We are the heirs of Jesus of Nazareth, a poor worker who displayed the truth more clearly than it had ever been. He spent three years in dirt and sweat and open fields, with friends and food, showing his country-men the reality that was breaking in around them. It is up to us to reclaim that message for our world.