This blog records my transition from the Churches of Christ to Eastern Orthodoxy.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Forgotten Christian Values: Suffering (Part 2)

Before i spend time thinking about our modern attitude toward suffering, i just thought i'd really emphasize again what early Christians thought about suffering and even martyrdom.  There are several written accounts of martyrdom from the late first century to the third century.  This was a period of history when Christianity was a minority religion and heavily persecuted by the Roman Empire.  The Romans made sport of persecuting Christians.  Christians were frequently used as spectacles in public arenas for violent contests.  Gladiators and wild beasts were often used to serve Christians' death penalties.

Christians of the second and third centuries resoundingly thought of suffering and even martyrdom for the cause of Christ to be a blessing--something to be desired, some that brought them closer to Christ, and something that even demonstrated the victory given them by Christ.  Note a few examples.

"[Germanicus] also fought with the wild beasts in an outstanding way, for when the proconsul wished to persuade him and asked him to consider his youthfulness, he forcibly dragged the wild beast toward himself, desiring to be released as quickly as possible from their unrighteous and lawless life." (Martyrdom of Polycarp 3:1)

"Blessed Pothinus, who had been entrusted with the care of the Lyon diocese, was over ninety years of age and physically very weak.  He could scarcely breathe because of his chronic physical weakness, but was strengthened by spiritual enthusiasm because of his pressing desire for martyrdom." (The Letter of the Churches of Vienne and Lyons)

"What a thrill I shall have from the wild beasts that are ready for me!  I hope they will make short work of me.  I shall coax them on to eat me up at once and not to hold off, as sometimes happens, through fear.  And if they are reluctant, I shall force them to it.  Forgive me--I know what is good for me.  Now is the moment I am beginning to be a disciples.  May nothing seen or unseen begrudge me making my way to Jesus Christ.  Come fire, cross, battling with wild beasts, wrenching of bones, mangling of limbs, crushing of my whole body, cruel tortures of the devil--only let me get to Jesus Christ." (The Letter of Ignatius to the Romans 5:2-3)

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