It’s another #tbt, looking back at aspects of the story of Jesus’ Church. Finding out a few interesting bits and pieces, and seeing what we can learn for us today.
Last week I told you about Ignatious. He wrote loads of letters in his time (being the worst ever letter writer/text replier/responder to calls ever, I’m desperately put to shame by Ignatious’ trigger/pen-happy fingers), but a specific one was to a church in Smyrna. Take a look at the map, Smyrna doesn’t exist anymore, but it was located in Turkey. The bishop at the time was a guy called Polycarp. Now, when it comes to standing up for your faith, this guy was the real deal.
At a time when the Roman Emperor was considered a god in the 2nd century, people were forced to worship them, burn incense for them, and reject any other god-like figures (particularly Jesus), being a Christian wasn’t easy. For those that refused to do this, they would be killed. Polycarp was a refuser. As he was reportedly dragged before the crowds, before he was martyred he declared
“86 years have I served him, and he has done me no wrong.
How can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?“
Now there is somebody’s hand I want to shake.
After he was martyred by being burned at the stake, many Christians would come to remember, and celebrate this amazing example of what it was to following and give it all up for Jesus.
However, unfortunately people took it too far. Martyrdom became somewhat ‘fashion’. I don’t say this lightly or want to seem crude, but many Christians began to freely hand themselves over to the authorities in order to be martyred. It became the greatest thing one could do in order to be like Jesus, as that is what he did. Leaders had to begin to share direction and correction with Christians, that they shouldn’t die to the wrong things. The Bible does say that we are called to ‘die to ourselves‘, but we need not die to the wrong things. At the time of the ‘wannabe martyrs’ (greatly named by Nick Page in this great book), it was written by a Christian leader that “we do not approve of men offering themselves spontaneously.“. Needlessly and willingly giving your life away to be martyred was not was God had in mind.
I wonder if we die to the wrong things today? Most of us in the Western world today don’t find ourselves in a position where being martyred is a reality we need to face, and therefore the idea of us willingly and eagerly putting ourselves in a place to be martyred is even more distant. But how many of us become martyrs in different ways? I wonder if you take on burdens you need not carry? Behaviours, lifestyle choices, attitudes that we simply don’t need to hold onto. How many of us have misinterpreted things or are going the wrong end of the ‘die-to-yourself’ stick? I know God often needs to remind us of a few things he does not want us to die to:
- Loving and serving my family.
- Fun and enjoyment.
- Sleep and rest.
- The health of our soul in preference over our ‘doing’ for God.
What other things is God speaking to you about NOT dying to? Sure, we do need to die to some things, but lets not become martyrs in the wrong way, and avoid the full life that God would love us to have.