Not long ago, I pointed out in church that the earliest Christians called themselves by another name – the Way, from something Jesus had said in John 14:5-7; 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
When Paul gave an account of himself before Felix, he also identified himself as a follower of the Way: “14 However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, 15 and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. 16 So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.”
From this chapter, we also learn that Felix was already well accquainted with the Way. We can also deduce that early members saw what we know as the Old Testament a foundation for many of their beliefs. Among it’s most important beliefs – the resurrection of everybody, both righteous and wicked.
This isn’t the last time we see the the Way in scripture – Acts 19 explains how the ways spreading popularity undermined the business of the idol-making silversmiths – which ultimately ended in a riot in Ephesus.
It’s easy to see why the Way became popular – it put all people on even ground and gave them hope not only in this life, but in the one to come. Followers of the Way were called Christians first in Antioch – which was a center of early Christian thought. Over time a small sect grew, became the dominant relgion of the Roman world, throughout Europe and spread not only through the world, but history itself.
I can’t help but wonder if the Followers of The Way ever imagined that the Romans that once persecuted them would one day become brothers and sisters in their faith. Did the ever think about how the faith that inspired them in the toughest of times would endure through thousands of years?
I also can’t help but wonder if the changes that have taken place have also taken away from some of it’s original charm. Are modern Christians too complacent? Are we able to fill the big sandals worn by the way? Have we made it too complicated? Have we divided it’s power and diluted it’s message?
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of divisions and I’m ready for sandals – I just hope I have the faith to grow into them.