The Forgotten Birthday
By DANNY MINTON
Birthdays are days that represent a special occasion. I post pictures of our boys’ birthdays on Facebook every year, remembering their special day. We send gifts to our granddaughters on their birthdays, and I take my wife out to eat on her birthday. We have days that honor extraordinary people in the history of our nation. Christmas is a traditional day that we recognize the birth of Jesus.
The older we get, we aren’t as excited when our birthday rolls around as we were at seven years old. Birthdays remind us of fleeting times. On the other end, a child looks forward to getting older and becoming “big.” Cake, presents, and singing “Happy Birthday” all come as part of the yearly celebration.
Sunday, May 23, marked another birthday. It’s one that we tend to forget or not even take time to pay attention to its significance. This year, depending on specific calculations, marked a birthday of 1,988 years. The birth likely took place on a Sunday (again depending on estimates) in 33 A.D. It was 50 days after Jesus was crucified and had risen from the dead. The day is known as Pentecost. On that day, the Holy Spirit entered the lives of several people, and somewhere around 3,000 people became the first people baptized into Christ. The church that Jesus had come to establish was born.
The first century of the church would be one of ups and downs. The early Christians would face persecution and hate from various groups of people. The message they brought would be accepted by many, but others would try their best to squash its existence. Many men and women would die spreading the “Good News.” Worship would often be held underground or in secret. Most of the apostles would face a martyr’s death, as would many other Christians. Yet, the church would continue to grow despite the horrors taking place.
The centuries that followed would also be full of good and bad for the church. Men would die trying to make the Bible available to anyone who wanted one. Controversies would divide groups of Christians into different camps. Crusades would end up putting a black mark on the church, with their violent actions and active hostility affecting the European Jew and Christian relationship. At one point, the cross, the symbol of hope and the love of God for man, would be, to others, a symbol of Christian hate for those who did not follow. Still, in a world of turmoil, the church grew.
Today, a recent poll indicated that less than half of Christians see the church community as a significant part of their lives. To hear that statement may bring one to think that the church is dying. On the contrary, while Western culture tends to be pulling away, the world is active with people accepting Christ. It’s happening in countries and places we would not imagine. People are risking their lives to get Bibles to people all around the world. Others face physical persecution and death spreading Christ in countries where they must secretly meet to worship or discuss the gospel.
One thing for sure, the church will never die. The world will try to make it conform to its ways. People will continue to find fault with those who follow Christ. There will be persecutions and hate just as there always have been. However, it will never fail to survive. It has for nearly 2,000 years, through good and evil. The reason it will not die exists in the fact that it has the strongest foundation of any group in existence, Jesus Christ. That foundation will always give hope to the downcast. It encourages those who struggle. It’s a foundation built upon a promise of a beautiful life ahead of this one we live here on the earth. It has stood on the foundation for 1,988 years, and unless the Lord returns between now and then, it will still be alive 2,000 years from now.
Perhaps the Hebrew writer says it best, “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:7-8 (NASB)
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ