The video played. My notebook was opened ready to take notes on the next section of Church History. Anticipating the amount of sentences I might write, did not allow me to fully understand the scope and complexity of what I was about to watch. As I took notes, I would freeze and unfreeze the video, ensuring my notes were detailed and accurate. It wasn’t until, I watched the video a second time, that I realized my anxiety and worry over life’s turbulence, awarded me the gold medal of “How small am I” champion.
The video series, I am currently studying has little to do with the people involved, rather, it is how those same people suffered in encouraging ambition as they await the fate others had for them. The two main characters which the videos centered around were Polycarp and Perpetua. Two Christians who, lovingly and willingly allowed themselves to become martyrs for the faith we continue to live by today.
Polycarp was a student of John, the author of Revelation. It wasn’t until his later days, that the proconsul of his region and the people of the arena called for Polycarp’s demise. Although Polycarp tried to avoid capture, it wasn’t until a Roman soldier beat a servant boy into telling him where Polycarp was living. What struck me was not the brutality of the Roman soldier, nor the intention of proconsul, but the response by Polycarp to the soldier.
It was said, that Polycarp invited the soldier into his home for some food and water. He was kind toward the soldier, only desiring to fulfill the law of Christ to “love your enemies”. Polycarp then asked the soldier if he could spend some time in prayer, which allegedly took around 2 hours. It was after this encounter that Polycarp was brought before the proconsul for judgement.
When the time came for Polycarp to suffer the consequences of his commitment to Christ, he displayed his gentleness toward the soldiers, letting them know that no matter what they do to him, God will give him the strength he needs to suffer patiently through this temporary painful experience. His gentleness, his humble demeanor and the words spoken showed me that no matter what ills of life may come, nothing can compare to the inexplicable desire to leave this world and bow before the God of creation in humble thankfulness.
The second person my study was focused on was Perpetua. She was a woman who was highly educated, knowing Latin and Greek and able to clearly write her thoughts in a way for everyone to understand. What drew me to her most was her willingness, her love toward everyone, including those who desired to do her harm. While in prison, she cared for her baby and others as they needed. She was able to keep a diary, thereby documenting her experiences while imprisoned, awaiting her judgement.
However, it was her words which struck a chord within my very soul. All the while she was imprisoned; she expressed her love toward her father, who begged her to turn her heart away from Christ. She could not do such a thing. She then expressed her own desire to live a life just as Christ lived, even unto death, a holy life filled with love toward everyone, including her enemies. Up until the very end, she showed love and compassion toward others, even the very one who would drive a sword through her neck. She did not feel condemnation or worry, but satisfaction in knowing that her life was being taken because of something Christ said, “If they hate me, they will hate you as well.” Yet, she also held to the command by Christ to “love your enemies” and “pray for those who persecute you.”
Both of these people, lived a holy life, desiring only to complete the mission given to them by Christ, to make disciples. They had a desire not only to complete this mission, but also to ensure they heard, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” They felt honored to be one’s who suffered for the Gospel. They did not worry about the temporary pain and suffering. They worried not about their own future. They did not worry about what career path to take. They simply desired to life a holy life, filled with a holy love, even for those who wanted to do them harm.
After all this, a question popped into my mind, “Do I concern myself with the command of Christ or the worries of what this life has to bring?” If I am going to be fully honest, I care about this life more. Like others, I worry about silly things, in a silly time for an unholy life rather than concerning myself with a holy life, using holy love to reach an unholy people.
How foolish my thinking has been. How wicked are my thoughts and actions concerning this life. This life is not about what I can gain, but rather, what He can gain through me. This life is not about how much I can acquire, but rather, how many lives He can acquire through me. As I study Church history, I have been given the gift which cannot be repaid, the gift of understanding why Christ suffered so. That same love, that holy love can conquer anything. Our fears, our anxieties, our illnesses, our depression can all be obliterated when we accept and life using the holy love given to us through His Holy Spirit.
We cannot express any holy love unless the Holy Spirit enables us to do so. The Holy Spirit enabled our ancient brothers and sisters to display a holy love and He desires to continue to display it through us as well. Can we all take a single moment to thank God for those who showed that holy love despite what circumstance they faced?
Lord, thank you not only for saving my life through Jesus Christ, but also enabling us to love others, even though they do not love us. Keep us from hatred and lead us toward the holy love displayed through the actions of Jesus Christ. May your holy love be displayed to a world that needs You. Amen.
God bless and encourage someone today.