I am from the NH and Massachusetts area, and have been involved in my local congregation for many years. In addition, I enjoy writing professionally- about Christian topics and also about real estate and associated secular topics. I've recently co-written a church history "intro" book titled "Top Ten Most Influential Christians- since the Apostles".
Today’s Christian has many options as they seek ways to learn and gain a deeper and stronger Faith. There are so many titles to read, so many Bible studies, and so on. In a lifestyle with limited time, what should your priorities be in this righteous effort?
As far as reading and studying (and praying upon), of course the books of the Bible itself would be the most key. Here are God’s own words; there is nothing as valuable as this. However, there is much more out there that can help “prop up” your Faith and maybe give you a better insight and understanding. I have long been interested in the writing of the early Church Fathers, and I believe this is an area that most Christians would do well to become more acquainted with. (The “early Church Fathers” would be considered those 1st and 2nd century prominent Christian leaders and theologians who helped build and spread the new Christian faith. Some even knew and learned from the Apostles themselves.)
One such piece that is well worth finding and studying is what is called “The Didache”, or “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles”. The Didache is a bit of a mystery as far as authorship and the date it was actually written, or compiled. Some believe that half of it was actually a Jewish work written before Christ, with the other portion of it written sometime around 140 AD, by Christian leaders. It is highly unlikely that any of the actual 12 Apostles did any of this writing, but who really knows?
Key excerpts from the Didache
Regardless, just reading portions of this will prove that it is a holy work, and is relevant for today’s Christian seeking direction. The first line is wonderful, and reminds me of a famous Dickens novel beginning-
“There are two ways: one of life and one of death; and the difference between the two ways is great.”
Later portions of the Didache are reminiscent of different portions of the Bible- including the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount-
“And this is the second commandment of the teaching: you shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not corrupt children, nor practice sexual deviation; you shall not steal; nor practice calling on spiritual guides; nor use sorcery; you shall not procure an abortion, nor practice infanticide; you shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.
You shall not commit perjury, nor accuse someone falsely; you shall not speak evil nor hold a grudge. You shall not be double minded nor double tongued, for the double tongue is the snare of death. Your word shall not be false or empty, but do what you say.
You shall not be covetous or extortionate, or hypocritical, or malicious or proud. You shall not plan evil against your neighbor. You should not hate anyone; but you should reprove some, and you should pray for some, and you should love some more then your own life.”
“Be meek, for the meek shall inherit the earth. Be patient and long suffering, devoid of evil, gentle and good, and trembling continually at the words that you have heard. Do not exalt yourself nor act presumptuously. Do not join yourself with the proud, but walk with the righteous and humble men.
Accept everything that happens to you as good, knowing that nothing happens apart from God.”
There is much more we could post here in the column, but for space constraints we cannot. There is much in the 16 chapters of the Didache that is just great Christian instruction for all ages- from high school on up to the elderly. Free online editions are available, and there is much written about the Didache in print as well. One such source, which was the basis of much of this article, is “The Faith of the Early Fathers”, by William Jurgens.