Imagine for a moment that you’ve been taken back in time to 312 AD. Picture the scene: you’ve arrived in the evening, and find yourself upon the banks of the mighty Tiber River, just north of Rome. Around you is a ghastly display of manmade carnage, debris strewn about, and bodies laying around in various states of mortal woundedness. Finally, your eyes rest upon a young soldier propping himself up against a pile of discarded war materials, evidently left by his retreating comrades earlier that day. His fallen friends, surrounding the young man in repose, were not so lucky.
You approach the injured soldier, and as you draw near, his eyes meet yours. His widened, frightened gaze has the hallmarks of what many in our modern day would refer to as “shell shock” or post-traumatic stress disorder. His breathing is labored, but you find yourself unable to hold back the question that is burning itself into your mind.
“What happened here?” you ask.
“They were vicious and unrelenting,” he stammers. Then, he adds something that makes your heart sink into your stomach: “They had the symbol of the Christians painted on their shields.”
It hits you like a million tons. The horrific scene before you was caused in the name of your Lord. So much pain and misery, all done by those shouting out praises to Jesus of Nazareth, the very same one you worship and adore. You know this can’t be right. Something has gone terribly wrong. You have no doubt that what took place around you had nothing to do with the teachings of the Messiah, who revealed the Father’s love to the world. But even still, the carnage remains. What happened was no dream. It was reality.
What, then, would you say to the dear soldier at your feet?
Think of your words carefully, because what you’d say in the scenario I’ve just presented you with still has tremendous weight in our present day. Even still today, thousands of people are harmed by those proclaiming the name of Jesus. Some have scars where they once received their injuries, while others have fresh, deep wounds. How will we reach them with the true love of Christ?
Jacob Winn is an alumnus of IRPJ's Certificate in Religion, Peace and Justice program.