A few years ago we visited the British Museum in London, there were so many amazing things to see. Out of them all one thing stood out to me, it was a magnificent Anglo Saxon helmet from Sutton Hoo in East Anglia that was discovered with a treasure trove other artifacts. Sutton Hoo has sometimes been called England’s equivalent of Tutankhamun’s tomb.Most historians believe that given the fantastic wealth contained in the burial and the dates on the coins it is most likely the burial place of the Anglo-Saxon King Rædwald, who ruled the Kingdom of East Anglia but achieved influence and power over most of what we know as England today.
Apart from his power and the treasure found in his grave Rædwald is famous for something else, a temple with two altars, one to Christ and one to the Anglo Saxon pagan Gods. Christianity had been all but destroyed in England when the Romans left, and Raedwald lived during the period when Augustine arrived in southern England sent by the Pope to evangelize the Angles. King Æthelbert of Kent, then overlord of south-eastern Britain, was one of Archbishop Augustine first converts and was baptised a Christian. It seems that under Æthelbert’s influence, Raedwald was also baptised in about 604AD.The story goes that when the newly baptised Raedwald returned to his Kingdom he did something significant and very revealing of his spiritual condition. In his royal temple he had an altar to Christ placed next to the altar to the pagan Gods of Angles. Those two altars, it seems to me, were a tangible outward manifestation of the inward condition of Raedwald’s heart. You cant come to any other conclusion than that Raedwald had a compromised heart. He wanted to follow Christ but not wholeheartedly. Raedwald’s heart, like his temple, was partially not entirely devoted to Christ. Anyone visiting the King could see that when it came to being a Christ follower, he had taken the path of compromise rather than the way of consecration.
Raedwald was a man who was hedging his bets, or as Paul puts in Romans 8:5, “living according to the flesh” That pagan altar next to the one dedicated to Christ was a sign for everyone to see that there were areas of King Raedwald’s life where he was going to act as if Christ was not his King. There were aspects of his life where he would not be committed to following Christ but simply continue living as he had before he had met Christ.I wonder if King Raedwald should be known as the patron saint of compromised Christianity?
This side of Christ’s return God doesn’t expect absolute perfection from us but he does call us to total consecration, all that we are, given over to all we know of Him with hesitation or reservation.Isn’t that, in essence, the expectation Jesus lays on us when he says we are to ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Matt 22:37 It’s the small three letter word that Raedwald, and all too often you and I suspect, struggled with. He just wasn’t prepared to give God his “all” Those two altars suggest that Raedwald had come up with a translation of Jesus words that said “I will love the Lord my God, with some of my heart, with bit of my soul and with part of my mind”
Given that the New Testament says our lives are now Temples, how many altars do you have in yours?