Scripture: 1John 2:18-25; 2John 1:7-11
This week for our sermon series Church and State: The Rise of Early Christianity, we begin by discussing how the idea of the soul becomes part of Christianity. Traditional Christianity defines the soul as the spiritual part of the body, or the true essence of what makes you unique. Moreover, Christians believe that when the body the dies the soul separates from the body and can keep on living eternally.
When Jesus was alive, because he was Jewish, he would not have thought of the soul in the way that we think about the soul today. The Jews had no real conception of how your life could continue on beyond your death in any meaningful way. This is why the earliest Christians focused so much on the resurrection of the body. God needed to give you a new body because, from their perspective, that’s the only way your life could continue.
But when Judaism and Christianity split apart, Christianity found itself being influenced by other cultures. Most importantly, Christianity was being influenced by Greek culture, which is where the idea of the soul originated. Most Jews were very resistant to Greek culture, which is why this idea of the soul did not make it into Judaism. But as we discussed in the first part of this series, Christianity spread outside of the Holy Land very quickly and traveled all over the Mediterranean. So Christians were being exposed to this idea of the soul from the very beginning of the faith.
Interestingly, when this idea was being introduced into Christianity, it was not a universally held belief. It actually caused a lot of conflict. In fact, this conflict is the impetus for the writing of the letters of 1John and 2John. This Sunday we are going to be discussing this conflict and what it means for us as Christians in the 21st century. Spring is finally here! I hope you are willing to take a break from all that sunshine to encounter this thought-provoking topic on Sunday. Enjoy your weekend!