Monday, June 24, 2019

Part 3: Justus' Story

A Community Announcement

Hi, I’m Justus. Our neighborhood in Rome is a friendly community. Good neighbors. But there’s this house down the street from me where some people have started gathering on the weekends. They’re meeting at Marcus’ house – some of you have met Marcus, he’s a cool guy. But he’s gotten into this strange religion lately and he’s been acting really weird. Everything started a couple months ago.

Just like you guys do in your community, every Friday evening in my neighborhood everyone comes outside and we play music, we drink, people bring food, and we just have a good time. It’s really good for the community for all the neighbors to be a part of it, you know? We bless the food in the name of Diana, then we burn some incense for Saturn and Juno, we say the national anthem, and then we do our chant to the god Jupiter. I love Friday evenings – it’s the perfect end to the work week and it’s good to see the neighbors and hang out. Plus, that’s what keeps us in good favor with Zeus. But Marcus’ household stopped coming a couple months ago. The first time I assumed they were sick or something, but they haven’t come out for 8 weeks now.

I bumped into Marcus the other day at the bathhouse, and I tried to keep it casual. I asked him how his crops are doing this year. We had a late start for spring this year, so he said the harvest is a little low but he was trusting God to meet his needs. I said, “Tell me about it. I’ve been slaughtering goats left and right for Diana to send some sunny weather.” But then he said, “Oh, I don’t do that anymore.” I thought, What do you mean you don’t do that anymore? Don’t do WHAT? And he said he doesn’t sacrifice to Diana anymore. After pressing harder, I found out his family doesn’t worship any of the Roman gods. Not Jupiter, not Apollo, not Vulcan – none of them!

I didn’t know what to say, I mean I’ve never spoken to an actual atheist before. I don’t understand how someone can just stop worshiping the gods. How does he expect his crops to be watered, how does he expect his kids to survive childhood, I mean the guy has gone delusional. So all I knew to do was to say bye, so I turned to walk away and said, “Hail Caesar, lord and god!” And then he nodded his head. I waited for a moment for him to say it back to me, but… nothing. There was this awkward silence.

Then he muttered, “Sorry, I don’t feel comfortable saying that anymore.” I said, “Saying what? Hail Caesar?” He said “Well, the ‘lord and god’ part. I follow Jesus now, the man from Nazareth who was crucified a few years back. He’s my only ‘lord and god’ now. Not Caesar.” I was pretty furious and confused at this point, so I just walked away.

The neighbors and I have started doing some digging. It turns out these people that meet in Marcus’ house call themselves “the way”, whatever that means. And we found out they’re doing some crazy things in there.

For instance, last week I bumped in to one of the families that goes over there. He seemed nice enough; he introduced me to his kids and he was holding this woman’s hand who I assumed to be his wife. But then he called her “sister”. Hmmm… I wrote it off as a mistake but then she called him her brother! Yeah. And then I found out they called everyone else in the house “brother” and “sister”. They must have some kind of… I don’t know. I don’t want to even think about what they’re doing. Man, those poor kids.

And that’s not even the worst part! We think they’ve become cannibals. We saw them on the patio the other evening drinking blood. We assumed it was wine, but then we heard them talking about that Jesus character. They were saying you have to drink his blood and eat his flesh to be his follower. Everyone did this prayer thing and started drinking it! It was disgusting. Then we heard one of them announce something like “This is my body, broken for you. Eat in remembrance of me.” So we high-tailed it out of there! I’ve never seen anything like it.

Anyway, here’s what we’re doing about all this. We are openly shaming Marcus and his household. I think this insulting and public shaming will knock some sense into his head. If he doesn’t come around, I’ll be forced to tell the governor about all this. A guy got whipped the other day for blasphemy against the gods. I don’t want Marcus to get that kind of punishment, but you can’t go around ticking off the gods – they’ll rain down Hades on all of us!

An Update

Hello neighbors, this is Justus again. Thanks for coming to this gathering. You are all here to discuss the situation with the house down the street – the group of Jesus-followers who meet in Marcus’ home. We’ve all participated in shaming and humiliating him so he would stop worshiping Jesus and come back to being a good Roman citizen. I now have an update for you:

Last month while Marcus was away on business I took action. My sons and I tore down the fence around one of his fields and let our cattle roam around in his gardens. The animals absolutely demolished his crops. It was a mess in there! And I left it that way.

Well last month Marcus knocked on my door. He said “I know what you did to my garden, and it really hurt my family. However, our other fields did surprisingly well this year and we ended harvest with a little extra. I brought over several boxes of vegetables for your household to enjoy.” And then he said “I’d really like to sit down with you some time and talk about this whole ‘conversion’ thing. I think that if I explained what my new God, Jesus Christ, is all about then you would view me differently.”

Neighbors, I was so thrown by his kindness that I did just that. We shared several meals together and he explained the gospel – that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, resurrected from the dead, and was seen by 500 people after doing so. He even put me in contact with some of the first-hand witnesses. I’m a Jesus-follower now. And I owe my eternity to Marcus. Had he responded in anger or had he just run away from us I would have never heard him out. And now, he’s my brother.

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