Continuing our series on The Treasure in the Field, The Influence of the Kingdom
The influence of the leaven can be clearly seen in practice in the early church. The odds were heavily against them as they were opposed by both the Jewish and the Roman authorities. They were bitterly resisted by the various Eastern cults that were also spreading like wildfire at the time. Yet the Christians, in spite of being largely drawn from poor and uneducated backgrounds, ultimately were able to influence the whole Roman Empire.
Traditional religious beliefs began to erode. Confidence in civil government disintegreated. The economy crumbled. And the moral code collapsed. The old order, man’s attempts to build utopia, was seen to be a failed enterprise. And while all this was going on, the church was quietly growing under the surface, building an alternatve culture, and alternative community, an alternative civilization.
The early church had practical answers for the decaying world in which it lived. They built strong, pure families. They took care of the poor and the sick. They worked hard, refusing to become permanently dependent on welfare. They earned the reputation of being the most productive labourers in the Empire. They went out and picked up babies that were left to die. But despite periods of intense persecution it was not the church that died; it was the tired old Roman Empire that reached the end of its resources. So even by the end of the second century, Tertullian was able to say, “We came on the scene only yesterday and already we fill all your institutions, your towns, walled cities, your fortresses..., your senate and your forum.”
History demonstrated that, in spite of its smallness and hidden-ness, only the Kingdom of God has true and workable answers. The yeast will permeate the batch of dough.