Saturday, August 29, 2009

Death to the Atheists...

Smyrna... (Reveation 2, speaks of the Church in Smyrna)

We know of the events in Smyrna (smyrna was a city in the roman empire located in Asia Minor) through a writer who claims to have witnessed them. It all began when a group of Christians were brought before the authorities (around 150 AD) and all of them refused to worship the roman "gods". Under the cruelest tortures they remained firm, they claimed that 'resting in Christ they scorned the pains of the world." When Germanicus, an elderly christian, was brought to trial, he was told that he should take into account his old age and recant, rather than submit to torture and death. To this he repsonded that he had no desire to keep living in a world where the injustices he had just seen could take place. And to show how deeply he meant his words, he called the beasts (wild animals hungry for his blood...lions, dogs, hyenas) to come to him and kill him. This act of courage enraged the angry mob, who began to shout: "death to the atheists!" (that is, those who had no visible gods) and "Bring Polycarp!" (The leader of the church in Smyrna).
When Polycarp learned that he was being sought he followed the advice of his flock (he was the pastor of smyrna) and hid for several days. But after having changed to another hiding place, and still having been discovered, he decided that his arrest was the will of God and refused to hide any longer and calmly awaited those who came after him.
The proconsul who presided at his trial attempted to persuade him, urgin him to think about his advancing age and consent to worship the emperor. When Polycarp refused, the judge cried out "out with the atheists!" To this Polycarp responded by pointing at the angry mob exclaiming "Yes out with the atheists!" Again the judge insisted, promising that if he would swear by the emperor and curse Christ he would be free to go. But Polycarp replied "For eighty-six years I have served him, and he has done me no evil. How could I curse my king, who saved me?"
The judge then threatened to have him burnt alive, Polycarp simply answered that the fire that the judge could light would last only a minute, whereas the eternal fire would never go out. He was taken outside and tied to a post. Here he looked up and prayed aloud "Lord, Sovereign, I thank you that you have deemed me worthy of this moment, so that, jointly with your martyrs, I may have a share in the cup of Christ. For this I bless and glorify you. Amen". He was burnt alive...

The stories of the sufferings of the saints of old only make one wonder if it is not they who should be pitied, but those of us who in our world of comforts, ease, and pleasures have tasted so little of the majesty of Christ. That in our lives saturated with little suffering we may not be in danger for our lives but for our souls. Polycarp, John Huss, the Apostles, and so many more lived lives that reflected so clearly that they were in love with God. He was enough, and all other pleasures paled in comparison to him. Could it be that the removal of all suffering and the infiltration of much evangelicalism into our culture has begun to produce generations that know about Jesus but have never experienced him. That know the story but have never been apart of it. Simply content to live our lives of ease, be culturally relevant and pursue our own desires often behind a veneer of Christian principles that simply cover the fact that in the end most of us care more about our stuff, our dreams, our future than we do about God. God help us... deepen our love for you, in ways that we are insufficient to accomplish.

Jesus help us to let our lights shine so brightly and so distinctly in a culture that seems to have so much knowledge of you but little love and sacrifice that seems to declare, we are yours...

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