Do you know how the first Christians lived? If you want to know everything about them, join us on this journey through history and you will know about the life of the first Christians, their way of organizing themselves and living in the name of God, surprise yourself!
Beginning of Christianity?
Christianity arises with the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem, his word begins to gain recognition, miracles make his word of being the son of God believable and in this way the people who accompany him during his time on earth and who give continuity to his work.
Christianity spread throughout the world from that moment in which, during the celebration of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles and the Church was born. Through the testimonies that the apostles showed, the first Christian communities were created, which, to the surprise of the Jews and Romans, quickly expanded throughout the Roman Empire. Their way of living was what attracted people and it is about this way of life that we are going to comment below.
How did the early Christians?
We already know where the early church and Christian belief originated, but how these people who professed their love for God lived, how those first Christian communities lived, which definitively transformed the world, was their way of life that was decisive in the rapid expansion of Christianity. It is said that Christians attracted more people by the way they lived, rather than by belief in God, but believing in God implied a radical change of life, a change of customs.
In the ancient Roman empire, the lifestyle was imposed by a social system, created by man and which was accepted as something normal, however, the lifestyle is a conscious choice and that is where the difference between how people lived Christians and how the pagans lived, to give an example.
The people who lived in Jerusalem, which is where Christianity was born, were in a society that had a lifestyle adopted by its inhabitants, however, Christianity generated feelings that created their own identity, which was new and different, for what as a result of this type of life new practices, habits and customs were accepted.
The Christian writings of the first centuries after Christ, tell us how the first Christians lived, who decided to be part of these new communities that decided to follow the word and teachings of Jesus, it was the lifestyle that mainly attracted attention and As this lifestyle was achieved by respecting the rules, cults and beliefs, they became Christians.
People who wanted to join these communities and have a life like the first Christians lived, necessarily had to go through a process of resocialization, so that they could acquire and incorporate new habits into their lives, among which were attention, solidarity and accompaniment directed towards the most vulnerable people.
They had to understand that money was not something that belonged to everyone, it was used to improve the quality of life for everyone, especially the neediest. Food was shared, and couple relationships were based on marriage and fidelity, among others, profound changes that made their lives totally different.
The change in the lifestyle of people who wanted to live as the first Christians did, did not happen overnight, it was a process that could take years. The change of lifestyle was accompanied by Christians throughout the process, through word, example and testimony.
Why was it a process of profound change? Because it had to be accepted and become a habit, to the point that it would arise from people naturally, without effort, without consequences. It had to be a spontaneous act, so much so that before they were really incorporated into the Christian community, their habits were checked.
The first characteristic of how the first Christians lived is based on the obligation to eliminate from their lives all those situations that afflicted them and the second was the conviction to base their lives on hope, of a tomorrow that would bring about the regeneration of humanity. , for the change caused by the reign of God over the world.
But since there was no social welfare system at the time, there were many people who lived in misery, who regardless of their vulnerability still had to pay taxes, however, the distribution of that wealth never benefited them. Therefore, there was no other strategy for Christians than solidarity through the principle of reciprocity, that is, the moment the one who gave came to need, he knew that he would receive.
Within the social structure of the Roman Empire, there was a custom that abandoning women and children when the head of the family died. When the man of the house died, the widows and orphans were totally abandoned, they were only protected, the orphans of warriors killed in battle, so the widows and orphans of common men who were not military, were forced to beg or to prostitute
These people were helped by the Christians because they were seen as children of God, therefore, they were brothers in Christ, this type of principle in which the underdogs were identified, was part of the way the first Christians lived, their life It was based on solidarity and love of neighbor.
In the sacred words of the Bible, not being in solidarity with the most destitute was a breach; in Israel, doing justice to the widow, the orphan and the foreigner became a value and a responsibility of the community.
The word of Jesus and the works he carried out in life were a protest and a strong denunciation of abuse, he always claimed that they will take advantage of widows and I raise love and respect for these women to protect them. It is from the word made action that Jesus taught, that is why Christians organized themselves in their communities in a way that allowed them to be able to care for the underprivileged, people made donations, Christians welcomed widows and orphans into their homes, which It gave these people the opportunity to have a future.
Over time, widows played an important role in Christian communities and changed many lives, making their solidarity work with prisoners and abandoned children another characteristic that made it possible to recognize the difference in how the first Christians lived.
Another of the characteristics that define how the first Christians lived has to do with the consideration that this community had, referring to the lives of children. During the times of the Roman Empire, the life of children depended on the acceptance of the father, also on whether he was born into a family with assets, so the birth of a son was seen as the possibility of continuing the legacy.
At the time, violence against children prevailed and since wealth was not distributed equitably and only benefited the elite, most of the population survived, so the birth rate was extremely controlled, however, when a woman pregnant, it was the heads of the family who decided whether those born lived or not, so the rate of murder and abandonment to the fate of the newborn was very high.
Those who had been lucky enough to survive the abandonment, because they were rescued and raised, were usually prostituted or sold into slavery, which was an accepted and normal action in Roman society. The Christians made a difference in reference to the fate of the children and the abuses were severely condemned, because within their Christian values and principles people were all created in the image of God, the Christians and the Jews were the only ones to criticize the abandonment of children.
The Christians had, based on their norms and beliefs, a lifestyle so different from that of Roman society, that it was too evident, but from the consequences of how the first Christians lived, it is based on the fact that this lifestyle provided more security, Christians did not accept mistreatment or sexual abuse.
On the contrary, they practiced adoption without any kind of dark interest, they practiced piety and compassion. Another difference was the way they accepted foreigners, which is why they became a multi-ethnic community.
The treatment and recognition of the slaves who were in the last social link, those who had no name, who were abused from all aspects, were recognized as servants but also as human beings.
Structure of the Christian life
As we can imagine, the beginnings of the organization of Christian communities were complicated, all the disciples had to meet in order to establish the strategies that would allow effective preaching. The apostles had the order of Jesus to evangelize, not only in Jerusalem, but for everything that was known in the world at the time.
One of the first strategies to stay united was communion. From this beginning then the Christians lived together as brothers, they were not the owners of their goods, these were shared. The apostles were the ones who guided the Christian communities. Preaching daily added more adepts to the apostolate and Gentiles and Jews also joined the community and this open and united relationship was very well seen by other communities.
We cannot deny that in the way in which the first Christians lived, there was a structure that allowed them to have an organization of a vertical hierarchy, however, being at a higher level was only assumed by Christians as a responsibility that they had to fulfill, not as a status of power and this made them very different from the existing social structure during the empire.
Many of the churches that were formed during the first century after Christ were founded by the apostles and they were the highest authority, however, a college of religious leaders was formed who were the ones who organized the liturgical life. After the apostles died, they organized themselves in the churches locally, through an episcopate. The bishops were the heads of the churches, he then served as the pastor and were the ones who replaced the apostles.
Although Christ had given the responsibility of creating the church and directing it to Peter, it was never conceived to die with the apostle, it was conceived as an institution that would remain and grow over time. But what was the strategy? To unite the churches in a universal church. Peter was the first bishop and those who succeeded him gave the church a hierarchy that was strengthened in Jesus Christ.
For its part, the organization or internal structure of Christian communities was also hierarchical. The bishop of the local church as the highest authority, was assisted by the clergy, which was also organized in a hierarchical manner, there were priests, deacons, minor clerics and the faithful.
During the early apostolic church, there were also many charismatics or prophets, who also received messages from the Holy Spirit, they played a very important role in the structure of the early church, since they could replace the absence of the apostles, because they followed them in Hierarchy However, this type of presence and appearances of the Holy Spirit was disappearing, so the prophets and charismatics were only present in the structure of Christians during the first century after Christ.
Within the mass of the faithful, there was also a structure and an order, where we can highlight the role that widows came to have within the Christian community, which from apostolic times became an order that cared for women. They visited prisoners and carried out a series of strengthening activities.
Qualities of how early Christians lived
The way in which the first Christians lived definitely promised a better quality of life to people who adhered to their conditions and principles and managed to change their customs and qualities. However, in order to live as the first Christians lived, certain conditions had to be fulfilled. conditions of doctrine and worship that we will discuss below.
The first thing was to have a life in holiness and for this, they only had to live attached to the laws of God, those people who wanted to be part of the Christian communities had to make it a habit in their lives to thank God every morning and every afternoon, thank God for the food and drinks consumed.
Christians should have control over themselves, because there were many customs that were not accepted, such as maintaining chastity before marriage, fidelity, single marriage and for life, were just some of the customs that should be incorporated. to life, so they had to have a lot of commitment to fulfill them, since they came from a society in which this way of life was very different.
Dedication to others is another of the qualities that people who wanted to become a Christian should incorporate, helping even those who have hurt them, not seeing enemies, but living in forgiveness. They are qualities that even today with everything that people have read in reference, it is not easy, however, this was one of the qualities that a Christian should have.
When the way in which the first Christians lived is analyzed, we can recognize that many of their actions complied with dedication to others, because the Christians did not reject foreigners, they welcomed widows and orphans, defended and treated them as human beings. to the slaves. They sold their properties and the proceeds were distributed according to the needs of their Christian brothers.
They were all seen as children of God. One of the practices that the first Christians carried out to help others was fasting, with what they stopped eating they gathered it and distributed it among the needy and those who did not have to eat.
Life in Persecution
The way the early Christians lived was seen as a threat to the social order imposed by the Roman Empire, so for the first 300 years of Christianity, they suffered a life of persecution and oppression. It was only until the arrival to the throne of Emperor Constantine in the year 313 after Christ, that a time of tolerance towards Christians arrived.
The beginning of the persecution dealt with punctual events and at a certain point sporadic, but after the fire of Rome in the year 64 after Christ, Emperor Nero directed all his hatred and power against the Christians, making them see as the culprits of the tragedy, it is from there that the oppression and persecution became implacable.
Christians were persecuted, interrogated, tortured, Christian martyrs arise, those faithful who defended their belief and their love for God before anyone. The acts of the martyrs are a faithful witness of the trials carried out, persecutions and prosecution of Christians. It was such a way of persecuting and harassing them that it became part of the life of Christians.
There are writings that show that Christians were blamed not only for being Christians, they were blamed for everything that happened, but death gave them eternal life. The most terrible of the emperors was Diocletian, who not only gave the order to execute them all, but also ordered the destruction of all the churches, the destruction of their scriptures, the prison for the clergy.
Communities were razed to the ground, Christians lived through centuries of persecution, but Diocletian’s was one of the bloodiest periods. The love for God filled them with strength and they did not give up even when they had to flee, wherever they went they took and preached the word of God.
Early Christians and modern Christians
There is a big difference in how the first Christians lived and how Christians live now, the first Christians lived the religion in front of everyone, Christianity was made visible in their actions in the testimony. As we have been able to observe the way in which the first Christians lived, it has been referred to based on their daily actions, gratitude, solidarity and kindness towards their brothers, because they were all recognized as children of God.
The life of the first Christians was based on love for Christ, on honoring him in each of his actions, on seeing everyone as equal. Respect, love, generosity, were part of the life of the first Christians and it was customary, habit and natural to live under those Christian norms, which gave them security and their life was based on customs that exalted them as a community.
It is opportune to see today how close or how far we are from how the early Christians lived and how we live today as Christians. When we take a look at the world, it is not a matter of tolerating all the diversity that is part of it, because it would be going back to the times of Christian persecution, only directed towards others.
What we must review in what we do with our actions, what we say, how much we honor the word of God with our lives, how much of the habits, customs and norms we maintain in our way of living, that allows us to call ourselves Christians. It is time to go back and review history, when history is better than the present, then it is a call to review what we are doing, correct what is not right and begin the work to recognize ourselves as a Christian community and as a church.