During Christianity’s first three hundred years Christians were not entangled with politics nor tempted to advance their cause by passing laws. Interestingly, however, there were many Roman soldiers and political officials who converted to the faith. In fact, this happened often enough that several early Christian teachers gave instructions on how to respond to this trend.
Hippolytus of Rome says:
“A soldier of the civil authority must be taught not to kill men and to refuse to do so if he is commanded, and to refuse to take an oath. If he is unwilling to comply, he must be rejected for baptism. A military commander or civic magistrate must resign or be rejected. If a believer seeks to become a soldier, he must be rejected, for he has despised God.” (Apostolic Tradition)
And Origen explains:
“It is not for the purpose of escaping public duties that Christians decline public offices, but so that they may reserve themselves for a more divine and more necessary service in the Church of God – the salvation of men. And this service is at once necessary and right.” (Against Celsus)
The early church had plenty of opportunity to take advantage of a growing number of political converts in positions of power throughout the Roman Empire. So why didn’t they capitalize on that? Why not infiltrate the military command and turn the sword away from the throats of their martyred brothers and sisters?
Why not? Because they saw that political entanglement was a snare, a distraction from their main mission. They refused to waver in their devotion to Jesus. No kingdom but his mattered.
If the early Christians understood who they were and what their mission was so clearly, why do Christians today find it so hard to imagine following Jesus apart from political affiliation?….