Perspectief 2014-26

Perspectief 24 prof. dr. Henk Bakker stay into contact. Local authorities frequently endeavored to choke the gift of catholicity out of the community, but most of the time without results. After all, Jesus’ words had been instructive: ‘I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me’, 10 so Christians did their utmost to stay connected and to console one another. The Gospel did not only establish a personal relation to God, but also created almost out of nothing also a vibrant social environment, a new family, a new humanity to care for. 11 Radical faithfulness to the commandments of Jesus to love one another brought forth a radical new awareness of belonging and commitment. 12 Even a non-Christian writer like Lucian of Samosata (c. 120-190 AD) was amazed by the fact that Christians left nothing undone to rescue or help a certain Christian brother called Peregrinus, who was imprisoned somewhere in Palestine for worshiping a crucified Palestinian man, and thereby introducing a new cult into the world. In Lucian’s own wording: ‘Indeed, people came even from the cities in Asia, sent by the Christians at their common expense, to succor and defend and encourage the hero.’ 13 Although Lucian hates to admit it, in the early second century Christians really cared for their species, wherever and however. This was in their spiritual DNA: an inherent predisposition toward catholicity. Love will always find itself a way. New forms of unity and diversity Now back to The Netherlands. If the preconditions are right, vital communities flourishing with creativity may also be bent to shaping new forms of unity. I see at least three vital parameters, culturally embedded and ecclesially relevant in Holland, which may bring to bloom new forms of fellowship in the church. In the first place (1) we have to reckon with the deep estimation of the average Dutch church member that, as such, relations are more important than truth; after all: truth is 10 Math. 25:36. 11 Adolf von Harnack, Die Mission und Ausbreitung des Christentums in den ersten drei Jahrhunderten (Wiesbaden: VMA-Verlag, 1924 4 ) 174, 189. 12 See John 13:34 and Mark 12:29-31. 13 See Lucian, De morte Peregrini 13. Cf. Eusebius, Historica ecclesiastica 4,23.