Over the years, the church of Christ changed. Instead of a persecuted minority, it became the ruling majority in Europe. The church had armies and kings who would fight in support of the church. But the church also supported the wars Christians had with each other. Instead of looking at the words of Jesus, the church focused on the rulers of the church as the ultimate authorities. It was these rulers who taught them the truth, and the Bible wasn’t something anyone used in their daily Christian lives. In fact, the Bible was not even written in a language that most people could understand, but only in Latin, a language only the educated knew. Instead of preparing for the return of Jesus or listening to the Spirit, they built huge buildings and focused on the material things of this world.
In the 1100s there was a wealthy businessman named Peter Waldo (his last name could also be pronounced Valdes). He was a firm believer in Jesus and wanted to do all he could to obey him. So he asked a monk to translate the words of Jesus into a language Peter could understand. The monk did so, and so the book called Sentences was completed. Peter studied this book day and night, amazed at the teaching of Jesus.
After studying the teaching of Jesus for years, Peter determined that he needed to obey Jesus. He sold his possessions, sold his business, provided all his resources for the poor and began to preach the word of Jesus. Immediately, some of the leaders of the church were upset with him. They tried to stop him from preaching, saying that only the appointed bishops could preach God’s word. They tried to find all the copies of the Sentences and burn them. They even killed the monk who translated the Sentences for Peter.
However, they could do nothing to stop Peter Waldo, who gathered more and more followers. These followers were called Waldensians. These followers were made up of the poor and women who were taught the words of Jesus and then sent out to preach them. The Waldensians taught that Jesus said we are to sell our possessions and give to the poor. They taught the Sermon on the Mount. They taught that the poor are not to be despised but accepted as brothers. They taught that the Bible should be followed, not human authority.
Jesus was pleased with Peter, for Peter was acting as a true disciple of Jesus. He sat and listened to Jesus’ words. He obeyed these words even when it was difficult for his life. He openly spoke of Jesus’ words. He suffered persecution for Jesus. And he did what Jesus himself did: Jesus himself selected the poor and uneducated to be preachers. In this age, there was probably no better follower of Jesus than Peter Waldo.
The Final Word
The Waldensians grew from a tiny movement to one that filled all of Europe. Eventually, the persecution against the Waldensians became so great that whole armies were sent out against them and thousands were killed. It was illegal to be a Waldensian all over Europe. However, the Waldensian movement survived and exists today in Italy. They have since joined with the Methodist church.
A Word From Our Sponsor:
The Lord appointed seventy and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. And He was saying to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way. “Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace be to this house.' If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.' “ Luke 10:1-9
Helpful Hint: Help the Poor
Every time the faithful saw someone in needy, they thought about what God wanted them to do. The answer they always received was to give. And when they gave, they were not stingy. They gave up everything. Peter Waldo sacrificed all of his wealth and gave it to the poor. As we shall see, Francis of Assisi would take every cloak he received and gave it to someone who had none. Desmond Tutu would invite people to live with him who had no where else to go. To love God, the faithful must also love those around them. No one can remain faithful to God if they don’t sacrifice what they have to those in need.