While doing some research, I came across these ten characteristics of the early Church. The way the Church acted toward the increasingly corrupt Roman culture is a great model for us today as we too try to interact with a society that is increasing more antagonistic toward the Way of God.
1- They refused to attend blood thirsty entertainment. They wouldn’t go to gladiatorial events because they believed it defiled humans who were created in the image of God. This made them appear to be anti-social. Tertullian and Augustine both write about these events in a negative light.
God's principles should always trump society's feeble definitions of morality. The early Christians could have said, "Well, the Scriptures never actually say, 'Thou shalt not go to gladiatorial games.' Therefore, it isn't really a sin to go watch people kill others for sport." But, instead, they chose to travel the road less taken. They looked at the Word of God as a whole and saw that certain principles did not align with their culture's view of entertainment. Therefore, they chose abstinence in an age of indulgence.
2- They did not serve in the military to support Caesar’s wars of conquest, which made them appear weak.
Of course, the liberals love this one. They like to scribble pacifism all over the early Church. However, the matter wasn't so much war itself, but the cause of the war. The wars which the Roman Empire had started at this time weren't about defending the people or punishing wickedness - the extent of the government's jurisdiction. It was about feeding Caesar's blood lust. Therefore, the early saints drew a line in the sand and said that they would have no part in helping the government defy God's Word.
3- They were against abortion and infanticide. In this culture, both were considered acceptable. To throw your baby out on the dung heap if you didn’t want it was not taboo.
You want to know what Christian extremism really is? It'll tell you. These Christian had such an extreme love for people they had never met that they would go wading, knee deep, in the dung piles, listening for the cries of abandon newborns. When they would find them, they would not only nurse the children back to health but they would also raise them as if they were their own offspring. That is love in action.
4- They empowered women by showing their value and dignity in places of learning and service which had previously been exclusively for men. Christians held women in high regard and treasured them rather than viewing them as just a step above expendable children and servants.
Until recently, chivalry has always been a prominent fixture in the Body of Christ. Unfortunately, the Feminist movement has convinced society that valuing women for their unique and God-given traits is sexist and primitive. We guys need to make sure that we treat ladies with respect and honor.
5- They were against sex outside of marriage. This fidelity was considered odd and against culture. Sex was viewed as nothing more than a desire like eating or sleeping. Christians held a high view of the bed and kept it pure and would not engage in sex outside of marriage.
I don't think I really need to explain how this relates to our current culture. Just take comfort in the fact that saints of God have been fighting the same battles for centuries. The God who gave them victory then can still give us victory today.
6- They were against homosexual relationships. This was odd in a time when same sex practice was not frowned upon.
There is nothing new under the sun. Our adversary has been trying the same old tricks all throughout history. The traditional view of marriage was not something a bunch of bigots tried to push onto the Bible. It's what God designed and what His Church has been fighting for since the beginning.
7- They were exceptionally generous with their resources. They shared what they had with one another and welcomed others in with a hospitality that was unparalleled.
Generosity and hospitality are two components that I believe are sadly missing from the Church today. We need to once again begin displaying love in practical, everyday ways.
8- They were radically for the poor. In a time when the poor and downtrodden were viewed as getting what they deserved, they were aggressively committed to loving and serving people in the margins of society.
In a poverty-stricken age, the Christians did not waste their time worrying about their own needs. Rather, they went out of their way to actively serve others.
9- They mixed races and social classes in ways that were unseen in their gatherings, and for it they were considered scandalous.
We are one Body. Race, gender and social status don't matter in terms of our value in Christ. Our Lord is the Father of all.
10- They believed only Christ was the way to salvation. This was in a time when everyone had a god and could believe something entirely different and it was totally acceptable to be polytheists and pluralistic. Christians dared claim that Jesus was the only way and refused to bend to other gods.
Need I say more? In an age of 'tolerance', everyone is pushing coexistence. It doesn't matter what you believe. The God of the Bible is the same as any other god. Jesus is just a way, a truth and a life. Come as you are. There's no need to do things God's Way. Oh, but there is! May we always have the courage to profess Jesus Christ as the only Way to the Father.