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Title: The Fellowship of Caesar’s Saints
Date: 01-Apr-2017
Category: Essay - Hari Ini Dalam Sejarah Methodist
Source/Author: By The Rev. Theodore Runyan, of Wesley Church, Ipoh

When Paul, the prisoner in Rome, wrote his letter to his Christian friends in Philippi, he concluded it with an interesting greeting. “All the saints salute you,” he wrote, “chiefly those that are of Caesar’s household.” The interesting and surprising thing about these words is not the salutation, but the fact that it came from saints in Caesar’s household. Caesar’s household was synonymous with vice and lust and moral darkness, and yet in the midst of such an environment, in surroundings that were alive with sin, a group of men and women held fast to goodness and purity.

It is not uncommon in any age to hear people blame environment for their imperfections. Many people vaguely imagine that if they could only move into a different neighbourhood and live in different surroundings, they would be better men and women. Some complain that they cannot develop character as they would if they were in a more favourable environment. Such people ought to remember “Caesar’s saints” and be ashamed. No surroundings could have been more degrading than the conditions which prevailed in Caesar’s household, and yet there were a few folk even there who were able to rise above their environment.

There are always some brave and noble souls who remain uncorrupted in spite of the world; some whose sense of moral loyalty and steadfastness is stronger than the temptations of the flesh; some who value moral purity more than pleasure. Daniel was such a person. In the unfavourable environment of the Babylonian court he remembered the religious training which he had received as a youth, and “he purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself.” Too often in Sunday School children are taught that Daniel was a man who spent some time in a den of lions without being eaten. It is more important to remember him as a moral victor.

The city of Sardis was one of the most corrupt places in the ancient world, yet when John wrote the Book of Revelations he was able to say, “Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white; for they are worthy.” So even in Sardis a few folk succeeded in remaining saints under most adverse conditions.

According to the writer of the Book of Hebrews, Moses was of the stuff saints are made of. Environment did not blind him to the demands of moral law. “Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharoah’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.”

Church art has, I am afraid, used saints rather badly. In paintings and statuary they have often been depicted as anaemic, bloodless creatures with piteous expressions on their faces. In 1930 I visited an old Spanish Church on the island Guam, and the statues I saw of saints would lead one to believe that saintliness involved being queer and hungry. The walls were lined with images of emaciated, sinken-cheeked, hollow-eyed individuals with their hands folded on their breasts. These were supposed to be likenesses of God’s saints. Such an impression is, I think, historically false.

The saints of Caesar’s household were not other-worldly creatures. They were a real part of the world in which they moved. They performed certain duties in the royal household, and a great majority of their daily associates were not Christians. On the contrary, they worked among worldly, depraved, sensual people. But Paul did not advise them to leave Caesar’s house-hold and seek employment elsewhere. He taught them to show Christ’s spirit and to exemplify Christian principles even in a corrupt royal court.

The true saint is not one who shuts himself up alone in a room so that he will not be corrupted by contact with the world. The true saint is one who in spite of the sinfulness and corruption of the world, keeps himself unspotted from the world. The true saint is one who instead of being changed and spoiled by his environment, will bring his knowledge and influence and character to bear in order to change and improve his environment.

This was Christ’s plan for making saints — not withdrawal from the world but active participation in the affairs of the world. He prayed, “I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldn’t keep them from evil.”

Now I wish to transport you from the environment of Caesar’s household and from the fellowship of Caesar’s saints to the presence of Jesus as he prepared to enter Jerusalem on that last journey to the Holy City. As he singled out two of his followers and sent them into the city to borrow an ass on which he could ride, he said words which ought to burn themselves into the memory of each and every one of us—these words, “The Lord hath need.” It is a strange thought that the Lord should ever have need of anything. With all power at His command we would naturally expect God to supply His own needs, and yet, I wonder if there isn’t more truth in these words than we are accustomed to realize—”The Lord hath need.”

The Malaysia Message
Vol. 48 No. 3
March 1938 





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