Nicolás de Cárdenas
Catholic News Agency

The book “The Example of the First Christians,” published in 2023 by the University of Navarra, examines the early followers of Jesus of Nazareth, whose lives continue to inspire and resonate with Catholics of all times, including today.

The book’s author, Gabriel Larrauri, explained to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, that although people and circumstances change over the centuries, those who trusted in the words of Jesus and in the transmission of his message through the apostles “experienced a situation similar to the current one, and they faced its risks with complete naturalness.”

Larrauri summarizes five hallmarks of early Christian living that continue to be applicable to Christ’s followers today.

1. Total commitment

For the author, the first followers of the Gospel message “are proof of how the world can be transformed.”

They were “normal people who knew how to be heroic, men and women who in their ordinary lives achieved extraordinary things and left a profound mark on the history of humanity.”

2. Coherence and courage

For Larrauri, those who formed the first communities of followers of Christ “are like lights that come from afar and that illuminate us today.” Specifically, “considering their fidelity and their courage can help us a lot.”

The author pointed to “their example of transforming the world from within, without living apart, shutting themselves off or evading the daily reality of the society in which they lived.”

Just like today in some contexts, the first Christians were few in number, lacked human wherewithal and didn’t have, at least for a long time, great thinkers or important public figures, Larrauri explained.

Coherence and courage are the key to understanding how “they were not intimidated” in the midst of a social environment marked by “indifferentism” and a lack of values, “similar in many ways to what we are facing now.”

3. Countercultural

The third quality the first Christians had that Larrauri highlighted is the ability to face persecution. “The Church upholds a lifestyle that must be lived against the tide,” which is why “being a Christian today can be described as risky.”

In fact, according to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Christianity “is the most persecuted religion in the world,” Larrauri noted, and so “having the first Christians to look to helps us face these circumstances.”

Knowing their example, “even going so far as to give their lives to remain steadfast in their faith, can fill us with strength,” the author pointed out.

4. The Eucharist

From the beginning, the celebration of the Eucharist “played a central role” in the life of the first Christians. “It is wonderful to see the faith and love with which the first Christians treated Jesus in the Eucharistic bread,” Larrauri noted, adding that “it is moving to see how we continue to celebrate the same Mass that was celebrated in the first century.”

5. Loving others

In addition to all this, there was the mutual love, brotherhood, and care they had for each other. For Larrauri, “perhaps the greatest characteristic of the life of the first Christians was how they knew how to love one another. This was to be the sign by which the pagans would recognize them.”

Loving one another as Jesus Christ did “is the legacy they have left us and what we must transmit. It’s not just about philanthropy or humanitarianism: They are willing — as Tertullian said — to give their lives for others,” Larrauri explained.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

The healing of a bleeding woman, Rome, Catacombs of Marcellinus and Peter.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons