In Part I, I asked the following questions: Why accept God’s call into a life of faith and obedience when the surrounding dominant culture offers a different path? Why buck the current trends and risk alienation and possible harm? Why not just enjoy a Sunday meal and not discuss matters of faith?
Dr. William C. Placher, previously the Charles D. and Elizabeth S. LaFollette Distinguished Professor in the Humanities at Wabash College, author of Callings: Twenty Centuries of Christian Wisdom on Vocation (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, 2005), gave some clues:
Christianity was different, so Christians claimed. Writing around 200 [CE], the Christian Aelius Aristides declared that Christians do not commit adultery, they do not engage in illicit sex, they do not give false testimony, they do not covet other people’s goods, they honor father and mother and love their neighbors, they give just decisions. Whatever they do not want to happen to them, they do not do to another. They appeal to those who treat them unjustly and try to make them their friends. … They do not overlook widows, and they save orphans; a Christian with possessions shares generously. (page 27)
Faith mattered and the pagan world noticed. God calls individuals to faith. During Augustine’s life (354 – 430 CE), God’s call was life changing:
Suddenly a voice reaches my ears from a nearby house. It is the voice of a boy or a girl (I don’t know which), and in a kind of singsong the words are constantly repeated: “Take it and read it. Take it and read it.” At once my face changed, and I began to think carefully of whether the singing of words like these came into any kind of game which children play, and I could not remember that I had ever heard anything like it before. … So I went eagerly back to the place where Alypius was sitting, since it was there that I had left the book of the Apostle when I rose to my feet. I snatched up the book, opened it, and read in silence the passage upon which my eyes first fell: Not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealously. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desire (Rom. 13:13-14). I had no wish to read further; there was no need to. For immediately I had reached the end of this sentence it was as though my heart was filled with a light of confidence and all the shadows of my doubt were swept away. (pages 100-101)
Augustine, who had resisted the call, finally responded and the Spirit opened his eyes to Paul’s letter to the Romans. He was elected the Bishop of Hippo and after death, achieved sainthood. His theological writings continue to be read today. He found purpose in a life of faith. Accepting God’s call to faith was the shield to resist the prevailing Roman culture. The same truths shield Christians today from the dominating secular culture. Christianity has always been a contrast community. This is Good News!