For the purposes of this blog, a Radical Fish is simply someone committed to following Jesus of Nazareth, as revealed in the New Testament – no matter what the cost. We use as our model His first followers, and we recognize in them a pattern of thought and behavior that we don’t often see in the world today.
When the message of Jesus first reached the town of Thessaloniki in southeastern Europe, its carriers were describe as those “who have turned the world upside down.” Why was that? What was it about the message that was so disturbing, for that matter why was Jesus crucified? It is easy to forget that the Roman Empire was very diverse when it came to religion, and made a habit of incorporating the faiths of conquered peoples into their own.
Many critics of Christianity today, make the case that various cults extant in the Roman Empire were so clearly similar to Christianity, that early followers of Jesus were simply copycats. Yet the Romans seemed to have had no problem with the cults of Mithra and Dionysus; the two groups most often cited as the source of many Christian beliefs. If they were as similar as the critics claim, why did Rome have problems with the one and not the others. Even the Jews, as long as they were not engaged in active rebellion, had religious freedom under the Caesars.
The fact of the matter is that Rome, up until the fourth century, had little interest in regulating theology or religious belief. None-the-less, they certainly had a problem with Christianity and its founder. The question remains – Why? The flip side of this puzzle is in II Timothy 3:12 where Paul tells us “all who live Godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” This leads us to the discomforting proposition that what commonly passes for Christianity today, may have more in common with the Roman cults of Mithra and Dionysus than it does with its first century namesake. We do well to ask, why did Rome persecute Christians? There seems a disconnect between our understanding of Jesus’ teaching, and that of His first century followers. As Philip Yancey said “How would telling people to be nice to one another get a man crucified?”
The purpose of this blog is not simply to ask these questions but to seek answers to them; and then walk them out. We firmly believe that the same Holy Spirit which inspired the New Testament authors, and the lives of our Lord’s first followers, will not leave us without answers. If you are – or want to be a Radical Fish, please join us on our quest and join in on the conversation. For starters, why not share why you think Rome persecuted the primitive church.
Grace and peace to you all,