Sunday, August 14, 2016

Constantine's Curse

‘He who pays the piper calls the tune’ still holds true. To choose some other music means losing out of a guaranteed subsidy. Within Church history this arrangement can be recognised as taking place between Church Denominations) and State.

In the first two and half centuries Jesus was the ‘paymaster.’ He was the Church’s theme and the guarantor of its funding. During that time the Church thrived in the face of opposition, pagan religions, infiltration by false teachers and Imperial edicts branding it as a threat. The melody of the cross sounded out with grace and glory. Then came Constantine. As he faced Maxentius at Milvian Bridge for the throne of Rome he had a vision. It was of a cross with the inscription ‘by this conquer.’ He had his soldiers stitch a sign of the cross on their shoulders as they prepared for battle. I wonder how many – if any – had the cross in their heart.

When he was Caesar in 313 he made Christianity legal and the State religion. The title ‘catholic’ appeared in edicts in 324. Bequests were allowed to the Church and Sunday services were officially endorsed. Constantine’s purpose was clear. Keep the Roman authority and State in unity and harmony in the face of Barbarian attacks. The pagan State was now the ‘paymaster.’ An unequal yoking of the State and Church took place. Christendom was ‘hatched.’

Slowly but surely across the centuries this yoke lingers. Its effect on the spiritual, moral and ethical life of the Church has been devastating. For those in Government care little for Biblical truth, Biblical morality and Biblical ethics. They require compliance and assist this with subsidies to clergy, buildings and charitable works. What appears within Church history is the horror of corruption within the Papacy and gross immorality and dereliction of Christ’s call to service. When the Reformation began hopes were high for a new beginning but the Church and State yoke remained even for the Reformers. There were those who heard the music of the Cross and the melody within Scripture and sought to live to its beat. They paid a high price as Christendom reacted to their threatening ‘music.’

The West is considered a mainly Christian influenced world. The message of Christ has had a great impact over the centuries and has reached-out beyond its borders. However the price of compliance and infiltration by the ungodly into the Church still took place and still does. When you read of atheist priests, ‘Gay’ preachers and theologians who reject the Bible or even the historicity of Jesus it makes people wonder about the Christian Faith. In recent decades various Governments around the World have tried to deafen the music of the Scriptures. Seemingly worthy laws such as the ‘anti-discrimination bill’ have been used to bluff, frighten and silence dissent to practices contrary to the teachings of Christ and His Scriptures.

Something strange however is happening. Heaven’s melody is getting louder. A willingness to stand with the Lord means a dependence upon Him rather than being compliant. Such a stand brings its hardships and misrepresentations. We are threatened with breaching discrimination laws because we hold to Biblical teaching on same sex marriage, sexual practices contrary to Scripture and the uniqueness of Christ for salvation. When the Church speaks against abortion, inhumane treatment of refugees or the impropriety of transgender toilets it is opposed or ignored.

A price may have to be paid by those who hear and heed the music of the Lord and trust Him to meet their needs. One thing is certain, within Christendom there is a sifting going on. The ‘music’ to which people will dance will be dictated by whom they accept as ‘Paymaster.’ Will it be to the Mammon offered by Constantine’s successors or to the accepting of the Communion of Christ Jesus? Will it be the Hallelujah Chorus or ‘Money, Money, Money, it’s a rich man’s world?’

©Ray Hawkins August 2016.

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