The Persecution of Christians in the Early Church and its Theological Implications for Mission Today

The Persecution of Christians in the Early Church and its Theological Implications for Mission Today

Author by Prof. Efe M. Ehioghae

Language: English

Abstract

The experience of Christians in the first few centuries of the Christian church was characterized by great persecutions. The Roman government`s attitude to the early church may be understood as a continuum: there was a measure of toleration or indifference at first, but then the distinctiveness of Christian worship and loyalty soon put the Christians on a collision course with the Roman authorities. Christianity was declared by the Romans as religio illicita, which implies that the Christian religion was illegal. One cardinal reason for this was Christians` refusal to worship the emperor as deity. Many faithful Christians who were unwilling to compromise their faith were martyred in the process in a most horrible manner. While some were burnt at the stake, others were thrown to hungry lions. Contemporary Christians may benefit a great deal from the early church`s response to persecution. They may learn the lessons of the power of non-violent action, suffering for Christ and unfeigned love in the face of persecution. Persecution may indeed be a painful experience but it helps to purify the church and emboldens her to carry out its mission.


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