In 312-16 AD Christianity went from being a banned and severely persecuted group in the Roman Empire to being the favored faith and joining the Emperor in power. Christians, understandably, thought it was good news when the Emperor Constantine had his soldiers put the symbol of the cross on their shields. In fact, it proved to be a disaster for the church. Power hurt us. Let us make Constantine a warning to the faithful.
Constantine encouraged the Christians, but refused to get baptized until his death bed, so he could keep on sinning in this life! He was baptized by an Arian Christian Priest! Why did we follow him and learn his methods?
When we read the New Testament and read the stories of the persecuted church, we all see the very best in the Church and learn from them. The Church of the Middle Ages, we largely shake our heads and look for Martin Luther to show up. When Martin Luther protested, the reigning Pope at that time was famous for fathering and favoring several children. His religious passion was building St Peter’s! The Roman church then sent armies to attack the Protestants.
What was the difference between the “Empire changing” faith and life of the early church to a totally lost church?
At minimum we can say that power did not make the Western Church better, but rather corrupted and even ruined the Church.
Constantine as a Warning to Rely On God not Politics
Jesus said His Kingdom is not of this world. He never had a trace of seeking political power. It is not his plan for us at all. We need to be excited about evangelism and caring for the poor and alien rather then US and local politics. We must not let politics get more important than the unseen Kingdom of God and growth of it. When we lose in politics, it is likely God intended. We must be careful to not be fighting against God. He certainly does not wring his hands over politics. He is about the Kingdom of God.
Let our passion and reliance be with the Word of God and prayer rather than politicians. God is about building his Kingdom and nothing else. When we can be as powerless as the early church, we will be really changing the world like God intended. Let’s focus on His Kingdom foremost.