The Waldensians, founded by Peter Waldo (c1140-c1250) a wealthy clothier and merchant from Lyon in France, was a Christian Protestant movement in the 1170s. After hearing a sermon on the dedicated life of St Alexius of Rome (4th-5th Centuries) and experiencing the sudden and unexpected death of a friend during an evening meal, he began living a radical Christian life. He gave his belongings as alms to the poor and began preaching publicly about the need for simplicity and poverty. He and his followers the Waldensians endured much persecution over many centuries and had many martyrs from their numbers. Their motto and their statement of faith was "Lux lucet in tenebris" or "Light glows in the darkness." Their motif shows a candle burning in the darkness. They also represented Jesus' household of faith as an anvil with many broken and worn out hammers lying around it. The title to this picture reads, "One anvil - many hammers." Like the anvil, Jesus' flourishing household continued and expanded down the ages despite persecution.✞
Jesus' house dynasty, including his mother, brothers, and biological line, was the focus of intense and universal persecution by Emperor Diocletian (224-311 AD.) Jesus' house dynasty was so crucial that Roman leaders tried to destroy it on several occasions in the early centuries. They worked without success to eradicate what they believed to be a "royal house dynasty." In AD 70, Emperor Vespasian ordered a search for the members of Jesus' house, thinking that David's line was the royal household line of the Early Church. James, the brother of Jesus, may have been regarded as the Protector or Prince Regent of Jesus' dynasty until his brother, the Messiah's imminent return. Jesus had no children. Therefore, his biological line died out. Even so, his brothers, sisters, and mother still occupied very highly respected places in the Apostolic Age. The Roman Empire saw this as a threat that they sought to destroy.✞
Jesus' family did not die out. The ordinary people who were Jesus followers continue as Jesus Christian household to this today. Emperor Diocletian set up a stone pillar with the inscription, "For having exterminated the name Christian from the face of the earth." Far from wiping the name Christian out, the martyrs' blood became the expanding church's seed. Jesus loved having children and family around him. Jesus' house faith was of great significance in the Early Church. Jesus called himself "the householder" in Matthew 10.25 and spoke of "his own house." He described himself in Matthew 10.24 as "the master of the house" and his disciples as "servants of the household."✞
Jesus' faith and that of his brothers, sisters, mother, and family matured after his resurrection, even though they did not appear to figure in his earthly ministry. His brother James became the bishop (or president) of the Jesus house in Jerusalem after Peter's martyrdom. The historian Eusebius reported that after James died, another relative, a cousin of Jesus called Simon, son of Clopas, became the leader of the Jesus household in Jerusalem. Yet another brother, Jude, composed an epistle that found its way into the Bible's canon. James and Jude were of the line of David, and blood brothers to Jesus. Christianity in the first century was seen very much as a family affair.✞
The leader, deacon, and bishop operated as Jesus chief ministers in the Early Church household of faith. Jesus' Chief Ministers were those chosen for office in the extended household as leaders and later called bishops (or elders), priests (or pastors), and deacons (or servants). Ministers often suffered for the sake of their faith and their flocks, especially in the early years of Christianity. Their ministry was like the soles of the feet and the palms of the hands. These are areas of the body that make the first contact with a needy world. Therefore, the chief ministers received the splinters and cuts, the blisters, and the soreness of sometimes painful contact like their Lord. Jesus had his hands, feet, and side pierced. It was, therefore, felt honorable that his ministers should follow his example of suffering. In Christian and Jewish traditions, the extended household rather than the church or synagogue was the center of religious life in Christianity's early days. Joshua was a model for his dedication in Joshua 24.15, "But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." The New Testament Church and Early Church both identified the extended Christian family as the basic worshiping unit.✞
The Late Dr. Billy Graham wrote for our generation when he said, "the foundations of civilization are no stronger and no more enduring than the corporate integrity of the homes on which they rest. If the home deteriorates, civilization will crumble and fall." The Christian Church and Western Civilization have always had the Christian home as its basic foundational unit. We have just forgotten in this Twenty-First Century that it was there. How important was the establishment of the Early Church in Jesus' eyes?
"How important is the household faith to your own family?"✞