“I can only say that I have acted
upon my best convictions,
without selfishness or malice,
and by the help of God
l shall continue to do so.”
— Abraham Lincoln
I’m not a violent person … usually. So it seems odd that I often dream I’m battling some unidentifiable enemy. And when that happens, in the morning Chuck will ask, “Who were you fighting with last night? I had to get out of your way or risk injury!”
In my dreams I administer a powerful Kung Fu Kick. But in reality I’ve learned that words can have an even more devastating effect on my perceived enemies. So I try to use them carefully, especially when I find myself in a keyboard conversation with someone who is challenging my faith in Christ.
It’s especially difficult to share with people who bring up injustices in history – incidents that expose inhumane actions performed by fellow human beings in the name of Jesus, the Christ.
A common question (usually presented in the form of a challenge) is this: “What about all the people who were slaughtered by Christians during the Crusades?” Or this: “What about people who attack homosexuals?” Those kinds of interrogations really bothered me. So I did some research. And what I discovered has helped me to understand why there is so much division – and secrecy – in the Church, in America, and in the world.
Apparently, it all began with the Roman Emperor Constantine. According to my findings, he came to power around 240 years after the legions of Titus ransacked Jerusalem and burned the Jewish temple to the ground, overturning every stone – just as Jesus foretold (Matthew 24:2) – to collect all the melted gold that had been used to elaborately decorate the interiors of the temple buildings. Historians have recorded that Constantine became a follower of Christ and decided to put an end to the brutal persecutions that Christians had endured up to that time.
But Constantine’s conversion in AD 312 proved to be an act of convenience … a bureaucratic ploy. Though only God can know his true motives, the emperor’s actions declare that he was trying to cover all of his religious and political bases and reap the benefits of broad based favoritism. He displayed both sides of the Roman coin – literally. Bronze coins from that era were stamped with the name and bust of Constantine on one side. On the other side was the image of the ancient Roman sun god and the words SOLI INVICTO COMITI – “to the invincible Sun god, companion of the Emperor.”
On one hand he commemorated a battle that he claimed he had won through Christ. On the other hand, he ordered that a pagan icon – the 69-foot-high Arch of Constantine – be erected in Rome right next to the Colosseum, where thousands of true believers in Jesus Christ had been brutally killed for refusing to deny their Lord. The emperor had the arch decorated with images of the Roman goddess of victory and portrayals of sacrifices to gods like Apollo, Diana and Hercules. There is no Christian symbolism whatsoever, which leads me to believe that Constantine continued to worship false gods, even though he claimed to be a follower of Jesus.
Nine years after he legalized Christianity by issuing a document known as the Edict of Toleration, Emperor Constantine declared that everyone – Christians and non-Christians alike – should unite in worshiping the sun.
After his conversion, Constantine had his wife and son murdered. He also set a very dangerous precedent. He combined the affairs of the Roman state with the affairs of the established Church. And he commanded his loyal historians to alter written history and erase his crimes from the official record. He was heralded as the first “Christian” emperor, savior of persecuted followers of Christ. But he chose to keep the title that previous Roman emperors had been honored with as head priests of pagan priesthoods – Pontificus Maximus.
As we will see, time is often an ally of deceit. Over the centuries the simple Gospel message proclaimed by the apostles has morphed into doctrines and dogmas that have been forcefully substituted for a rewarding spiritual relationship with the Son of God.
“… when He, the Spirit of truth, has come,
He will guide you into all truth;
for He will not speak on His own authority,
but whatever He hears He will speak;
and He will tell you things to come.”
A RUST REMOVER …
Try this experiment. If you have a print newspaper, lay it out on a table. Then with a colored marker, circle all the headlines that have to do in some way with injustice. If you don’t have a newspaper, log onto http://www.drudgereport.com and scroll through the headlines posted by journalist Matt Drudge. How many of these would you say could have been resolved in a more positive way if people had made an effort to treat each other with kindness, consideration and respect? How do you think Jesus would have handled each situation?