I had the opportunity today to read about the Synod of Elvira, an important provincial religious council in Spain that occurred sometime during the first decade of the Fourth Century, prior to Emperor Constantine's conversion and Christianity's formal, public acceptance in the Roman Empire. This was a period when Christians were harshly persecuted by the Romans, so I was unsurprised but certainly humored to find in the translated text an ancient, Christian version of the modern "stop snitching" code (here's the only web version I can find: Scroll down to see #73):
A Christian who denounces someone who is then ostracized or put to death may not commune even as death approaches. If the case was less severe, he or she may commune in less than five years. If the informer was a catechumen, he or she may be baptized after five years.Refusing communion was the most terrible punishment early Christians could think of - far more awful, in the long run, than the death penalty for the unsaved soul.
The reference to a Christian denouncing someone in the context of the Elvira Synod meant ratting out a fellow Christian to the Roman authorities, which quite possibly could get them killed. In that case, their excommunication was permanent.
These Christians had read most of the same books of the Bible we do now (they probably had more, actually), and they knew the admonition to "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's." But the Elvira Synod did not consider their truthful testimony about fellow Christians something that belonged to Caesar. Instead, snitching on fellow Christians was declared an offense against God by which a Christian risked everything, literally their eternal soul.
Context is everything, isn't it? Who'da thought early Christians may have been progenitors of a version of the "stop snitching" meme?