For those of you who really know me well, you can go ahead and bank on it. I will be quoting our guide for a long, long time. She holds high-level education in the art, culture, and history of Rome. Clay has been working with her with large and small groups over here since 2002. She knows her stuff. And she said something yesterday, for the 2nd time while we have been here in Rome, that is worth repeating. A lot.
We were standing on the portico of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Jesus, and John the Evangelist (I am not kidding). It is considered to be the oldest “Christian” church building in the world. I am not talking about the oldest building that a church might have gathered in. I am talking about the oldest church building, dedicated to nothing more than a “Christian” church gathering there. Our guide, for the second time, said something that astounded me. She is Catholic. I did not prompt her to say this. It came out as a commentary as we were looking at a statue of Constantine on that portico.
Constantine is the emperor of Rome that legalized “Christianity” and later declared it the religion of the Roman Empire. It was much to the delight of the “Christian” church. And he began donating government land to the “Christian” church for the purpose of building them buildings dedicated to God. And that is what he did.
What did our guide say? Here it is:
It was not the Christians who built these buildings. It was the Romans. They needed something concrete and monumental in order to tangibly worship this newly-declared God of the Roman Empire.
I asked her to clarify.
That’s right. The Christians did not intend it. Romans did.
Wow. Wow! WOW!!! Did you read that?
In the research I have done, my conclusion was that it was Constantine that started the very deceptive, downward trend of “church” being known as a central building rather than a people decentralized. And man did I feel affirmed. Here was a very well-educated Roman citizen who asserted this was the case, without my prompting. That was pretty cool.
And so, I ask the question:
Does your church family have a building? If yes, then why?
I would suggest that if it only dedicated to letting people come and sit and listen once or twice or maybe even three times a week, then it is not at all close to how Jesus would want us to be steward of the resources He provides.
May we quit building buildings for those who have plenty to gather in a few times a month, and may we instead direct our resources toward those who do not have plenty, whether with regard to financial poverty or emotional poverty or identity poverty or any kind of brokenness. May we instead remember always the poverty of our own lives apart from Christ and extend freely what has been freely extended to us, with complete surrender, holding onto nothing for ourselves, giving ourselves away.
Contemplate with the leadership of your church family:
Are we using the resources that we have been given in a way that is true to the heart and life and ways of Jesus? If not, what do we need to change?
Meantime, here are some pics from around Rome from Friday and Saturday. Pics and thoughts from Assisi to come tomorrow evening. Still processing. Love yall.
Tomorrow is our last day in Rome. We fly out Tuesday. Will post tomorrow evening about Assisi and a few quick pics from two museums we will visit tomorrow. Until then…