In the previous post I discussed the mentality of one’s showing total dedication to Jesus by being willing, almost seeking, martyrdom. After all if Jesus was willing to die for His followers they should be honored to sacrifice themselves for Him. But the question comes up, ‘what happens when the Roman persecutions stop??’ ‘What am I supposed to DO to show Jesus I love him??’ In some sense it was easy during the Roman persecutions. True, it was difficult to have someone you love tortured, but it was easy to know who loved Jesus and who did not. At least one could suppose that the martyr is one who truly loved Jesus and proved it by his/her allegiance. Since the old way ‘to show commitment to my Savior’ is gone, what is one to do.
Due to many factors, however, the persecutions from the Roman Empire ceased with the Edict of Milan in AD 313. The Emperor Constantine had become primary emperor and was sympathetic to the Christians (some scholars claim Constantine became a Christian only on his death bed, but he still had Christian sympathies no matter what the reason and timing) so he decided in AD 313 to pass a Roman law allowing Christians to worship without persecution. Thus the honor of sacrificing one’s self for their savior was gone. So the followers had to redefine what allegiance to Jesus truly means, and how do you show that?
Well, in the mid 200’s AD a man named Anthony became convinced of the best way to show fidelity to Jesus was to sell everything he owned (he was quite wealthy), move to a cave in the desert (in Egypt), and wrestle with his personal spiritual struggles solo. He convinced himself and others of the difficulty in staying in proximity to others (for they are not only sinful, but they bring much temptation), and thus truly dedicated followers of Jesus should leave all civilization behind and move out into a cave for isolation. This way the distractions of the world are left behind, giving more opportunity for defeating one’s personal ‘demons’. Thus the Christian Monastic movement began. Many, many people followed Anthony’s example and moved to caves (and later monasteries) to attempt a perfect, holy life. This movement, however foreign to many of us, continues to this day. There are individuals every year that sell all belongings and move to a monastery for peace and tranquility.
So far we have 2 ways seen in history of how to show dedication to Jesus: 1. Martyrdom (during the Roman persecutions); and 2. Monasticism (living by yourself to wrestle with your personal spiritual struggles). I will tell some what happened next in the following post.