A Call to the Faithful

If I were to tell you about an ancient document that sheds fresh light on Christianity, your first reaction might be to run for the hills. Most of us have had just about all we can handle of the spurious “Gospel of Judas” and The Da Vinci Code, right? Well, I’m not talking about The Da Vinci Code. Unlike the Gnostic gospels that inspired the novel, the ancient document I’m talking about sheds some real light on Christianity. It’s called the Didache, and it’s one of the earliest non-scriptural Christian writings, written toward the end of the first century. As Christianity Today explains in an excellent article last month, “While no one believes that any of the twelve apostles wrote it, scholars agree that the work is a faithful transmission of the apostles’ teaching, intended primarily for the training of Gentile believers.” So this is no mysterious subject of an ancient conspiracy, just a practical guide to discipleship and obedience—maybe not as thrilling to many readers and moviegoers, but a lot more important. The Didache came to my attention at the last meeting of the group Evangelicals and Catholics Together. As some of you know, I am one of the founders of the group, which is dedicated to finding common ground in our Christian faith and mission, and standing together in the culture war. Specifically, I came across the following passage: “There are two ways, a way of life and a way of death; there is a great difference between them . . . in accordance with the precept of the teaching ‘You shall not kill,’ you shall not put a child to death by abortion nor kill it once it is born. . . . The way of death is this; they show no compassion for the poor. They do not suffer with the suffering. They do not acknowledge their Creator, they kill their children and by abortion cause God’s creatures to perish; they drive away the needy, oppress the suffering; they are advocates of the rich and unjust judges of the poor; they are filled with every sin. May you be ever guiltless of all these sins!” That’s pretty powerful language, condemning the brutal practices of the Romans and of the pagan societies. But what really caught my attention is that this demonstrates so clearly that the sanctity of all human life is an issue that goes back to the very beginnings of the Church. That ought to be news to those who slam the so-called “religious right” as if abortion were some issue we just recently latched onto for political power. To the contrary, this struggle against the culture of death is an ancient one, going back two thousand years. The Didache wisely identifies the unborn with the poor, and condemns the rich and unjust judges who oppress them. Fascinating, isn’t it? All the hoopla over the “Gospel of Judas,” which was discredited in the second century. The world, you see, wants to believe all kinds of deep dark secrets that might shake the foundations of the faith. But here comes a genuine document—no attention paid to it—but what it proves is the validity of the biblical account. The Didache, the Church’s first written guide for discipleship, may not contain ear-tingling, earth-shattering revelations like all the other recent sensational disclosures, but it contains something much more important: a reminder of the Church’s great heritage and a call to our generation to be as faithful as our ancestors were in protecting life and the weak and the defenseless.


Chuck Colson


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