by Sheri Schofield
The sun was shining and gusts of winds whipped the long grass into rolling, silver-green waves in the meadow. Coming down the road on horseback were two riders. Horses that had been pastured at the upper end of the meadow reared their heads, whinnied, and trotted down toward the riders. The pasture fence let them get six feet from the dirt road. They horses stood with their necks outstretched, nickering to the passing ponies, eager to make a social contact but socially distanced by the fence.
I smiled. “I know exactly how you feel!” I thought. This social distancing thing was getting very old. I missed my friends! But a virus sweeping across the nation had forced us all to keep our distance. Waving when we saw each other just wasn’t enough contact!
Early Christians felt much of the same impatience when they met each other in the streets of Rome. A glance and a slight nod were about all they could share in the city hostile to these believers in Jesus. Those who were known to be Christians were sometimes captured and placed in the center of the Coliseum, where lions were loosed to tear them apart. Or they were crucified and hung around the city so all could watch them die. So to keep each other safe, they restricted their meetings to the underground graves of Rome, the catacombs.
One by one, they would slip into the caverns, carefully making sure that they were not seen by spies. One by one, they made their way to the secret meeting. There in the dark, lit only by torches, they could hug one another and exchange heartfelt greetings.
Their lives depended upon secrecy. They identified each other at times by drawing a fish in the dust. The fish was the symbol they had adopted for identification. If the person to whom they were talking would also draw a fish, the believer would know that they had found a fellow disciple of Jesus.
In the early days of the church, these disciples of Jesus were known as Followers of the Way. It wasn’t until Paul brought the good news of Jesus to Antioch, which is in current-day Turkey, that believers were called “Christians”. As Jesus had said before he left earth for heaven, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,” John 13:35, NIV. And they did.
The early Followers of the Way were willing to give up everything for Jesus. Their lives were dedicated to obeying God’s Word, the Bible. They loved each other so much that many were willing to die for each other. Many laid down their lives for the name of Jesus, whom they loved and served. They were committed.
How are we doing in that area? Can others tell that we are Jesus’ disciples because of our love for one another? Are we living in obedience to Jesus, who laid down his life for us? Are we Followers of the Way?
In the current body of Christ experiencing suffering in other countries, love and loyalty grow bright and personal bickering fades away. Times of fellowship once again become precious. Those who truly believe in Jesus are committed Followers of the Way. Their obedience to the Word is strong and their love for Jesus is pure.
We’ve just had a taste of what it means to be separated from fellow believers. Let us reunite now with a lasting resolve to love one another more dearly than ever before! We are also Followers of the Way.
Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony, Colossians 3:14, NLT
About the author: Sheri Schofield is an award-winning children’s author-illustrator and children’s ministry veteran of 40 years. Sheri was named Writer of the Year in 2018 at the Colorado Christian Writers’ Conference for her work in effectively sharing the gospel of Jesus. Her ministry, Faithwind 4 Kids, can be followed on her blog at her website, http://www.sherischofield.com. Questions welcomed!
Read Sheri and her husband’s amazing story in One Step Ahead of the Devil: A Powerful Love Story. Thrust into national politics because of her husband’s work, Lissa McCloud struggles to save the life of the man she loves from those who are bent on his destruction. Based on true events, the reader is taken deep into the heart of national politics –all the way to Congress and the President of the United States.
Join the Conversation: How important is fellowship and love for the body of Christ to you?