Ancient history has always held an allure for me. Greece and Rome established a legacy with their willingness to engage in the marketplace of ideas. This fascinating era also gave rise to the foundations of our political and philosophical thinking.
Though we may understand and appreciate this, we may be less drawn to the writings of such ancient church fathers as Tertullian, who in A.D. 200 expanded on the concept of Jesus’ followers being the salt and light of the Gospel.
[Do we not] dwell beside you, sharing your way of life, your dress, your habits, and the same needs of life? We are no Brahmins, or Indian gymnosophists, dwelling in woods and exiled from life. . . . We stay beside you in this world, making use of the forum, the provision-market, and all other places of commerce. We sail with you, fight at your side, till the soil with you, and traffic with you; we likewise join our technical skill to that of others, and make our works public property for your use.
Tertullian has something of value to teach us today, doesn’t he? He understood the impact of living and interacting within community. Our lives matter as we trade and toil within our communities, but so do the lives of those with whom we interact.
Unfortunately, we don’t always recognize the affect we could have because we are too caught up with the perspective that our lives matter and that our communities are there to serve our needs. We can fail to make time for the needs of others.
What if we got outside of ourselves and sought to serve the needs of others? What if we not only got outside ourselves, but outside our comfort zones as well?
Who would want to do that? Wouldn’t it be more comfortable seeking out those who are most like ourselves: the likeable, the personable, and the desirable?
If that is our perspective, then our lives and our churches will reflect that. James understood that we might have that perspective. He knew that even Jesus’ followers would tend to be hearers of the Word and not necessarily doers as well (James 1:23). Getting outside of ourselves can be discomforting. It takes time and commitment.
Tertullian understood that only when the church was mixed into the very life and conversation of the city would it be an effective force for giving the Gospel life and providing the people of the city the opportunity to see the Gospel live in them.
Is that so bad? Is that so hard? The key is in the “hearing and doing.”
What steps can we take to change our perspective? How can we stretch ourselves to break out of our comfort zones and live out the Gospel in everyday life?
For more information about how you can “stay the course,” refer to The Wheel illustration on The Navigators’ website here. The Witnessing Spoke: God has given believers the joy and responsibility of telling the world about the Good News of Christ’s work on earth (Matthew 4:19). In fact, sharing this spectacular news with others should be the natural overflow of a rich, vibrant life in Christ (Romans 1:16).