In this sermon, Bruxy Cavey talks about what it means for God’s light to shine through the body of Christ in the midst of the world. We are to witness to the world what God has done in our life and wants to do in the world. This is the first sermon in a three-part series on what it means practically to be salt and light in our world.
This sermon by Bruxy Cavey seeks to answer the question: What made the early church grow in number, conviction and courage? The answer can be summarized by this short quote by Lactantius, a third-century church leader from North Africa, “People prefer example before talk.” Or consider the words of Justin Martyr from the second century, “It is our responsibility to offer our lives to all people for inspection. By our patience and meekness Christians will draw all people.”
So many times we tell others to look to Jesus and only follow the model of him and to ignore the lives of Christians. This ends up being a copout, letting Christians off the hook so that they do not have to take responsibility for the lives that they live in the midst of the world. Jesus is the model and the church acts however it wants to. This was not the approach taken by the early church. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” Or in the focus scripture, “Imitate me.” God’s people are to serve as a model for what it means to belong to Christ, serving as the primary way that the gospel will be communicated.
Bruxy offers the story of Perpetua and Felicity from the second century, two women—one free and the other a slave—who were arrested and martyred because they were Christians. They were a part of a group of Christians who were paraded into a coliseum to be attacked by wild animals and eventually killed by gladiators. Instead of scattering and hiding as individuals, they gathered as a group holding hands and supporting each other, dying in a different way than others.
However, the key to this kind of model or example of the faith is not found in their particular actions in this particular moment. Instead, we must look to the chosen practices that prepared them for this public witness. Their mentor in the faith, Saturus, had equipped them in the ways of prayer and non-violence, even to the point of voluntarily giving himself up as a Christian so that he might continue his mentoring of them while they were in prison. They, in other words, adopted specific faith practices that shaped their lives so that they would be prepared to respond in a way that looked like Jesus during times of great struggle.
Alan Kreider writes, “The sources rarely indicate that the early Christians grew in number because they won arguments; instead they grew because their habitual behavior (rooted in patience) was distinctive and intriguing … When challenged about their ideals, Christians pointed to their actions. They believed that their “habitus,” their embodied behavior, was eloquent. Their behavior said what they believed; it was an enactment of their message.” The example of the early church served as the way that the gospel was spread. They embraced the call to be salt and light, to say, “Look at me as I look at Jesus.”
The church today can be this as we adopt a habitus that aligns with the gospel. A habitus is “the socially ingrained habits and dispositions; the way individuals perceive the social world around them and react to it; cultivated reflexes acquired through imitation (mimesis), story, and repetition.” We must develop a habitus through the formation of specific practices that will align our character that is salt and light.
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