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As Polycarp did

“But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.” Acts 4:19

One of the most inspiring stories in church history is the martyrdom of Polycarp.  Polycarp was a pupil of the Apostle John.  He lived between 70 and 155 A.D.  He served as head of the Church at Smyrna and was known as one of the earliest fighters of Christian heresy.  He was well respected by the Church and stood firm in the face of persecution.  And this firm stand is what caused his eventual martyrdom.  Below is the account of his death.

The emperors of Rome had unleashed bitter attacks against the Christians in the early 2nd century, and members of the early church recorded many of the persecutions and deaths. Polycarp was arrested on the charge of being a Christian — a member of a politically dangerous cult whose rapid growth needed to be stopped. Amidst an angry mob, the Roman proconsul took pity on such a gentle old man and urged Polycarp to proclaim, “Caesar is Lord”. If only Polycarp would make this declaration and offer a small pinch of incense to Caesar’s statue he would escape torture and death. To this Polycarp responded, “Eighty-six years I have served Christ, and He never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” Steadfast in his stand for Christ, Polycarp refused to compromise his beliefs, and thus, was burned alive at the stake.  (This account found at www.polycarp.net)

What a testimony.  All he had to do was declare that Caesar was his lord, and he would have been spared.  All he had to do was sprinkle a little incense to Caesar, and he could have gone free. However, he chose to stay true to Christ.  And because of this, he was burned alive, tied to a stake.  It is said he did not cry out, but that he sang praises to Jesus until he died.  His martyrdom is but one of many stories of persecution unto death.  We have all heard of the Christians who were thrown to the lions as thousands of Roman citizens watched with delight.  Many, like the Apostle Paul were beheaded.  And it is said that Nero would burn Christians alive as lamps to light his debaucherous parties.

My prayer is that we Christians living today would have the same testimony as Polycarp.  We may not find ourselves facing death for the cause of Christ, but we should be willing if necessary.  However, we all will face resistance for our faith in Christ.  What if we were told to do something unethical or immoral as a requirement to keep our job?  Would we make small consessions such as lying or participate in behavior unbecoming a Christian?  Would we sprinkle a little insence to Caesar?  What would happen if we were given the choice of rejecting Christ or losing everything we have?  This may become a reality in the very near future.  Or what if we are compelled to accept a little leaven in our lives in order to be accepted by the crowd?  Could we resist?

There are going to be times in our lives when we are going to have to make a decision as to whether we stand firm for Christ, or we compromise.  Peter and John made the choice to obey God and preach the gospel, rather than obey the Sanhedrin,  They were then beaten, ordered not to speak in the name of Jesus and then released.  Did they discontinue telling others about Christ.  No they did not.  As the book of Acts states, “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.   And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” Acts 5:41-42.  They did not stop just because it got a little uncomfortable.  They perservered on, knowing that they could be treated even worse.  But it did not matter to them, for they chose to please God rather than men.  This should be our attitude also.

We should be willing to stand up for the truth, no matter the cost.  We may lose our friends, job, possessions, our family or our lives.  What we need to ask is this, Are these things a higher priority than God?  Do I want the acclaim of men or God?  If there is any hesitation at all, then we need to examine our priorities and bring them in line with God’s.  Only then will we be able to say as Polycarp did, “For so many years I have served Christ, and He never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”

Categories: Culture
  1. WilliamHF
    June 18th, 2011 at 15:37 | #1

    Thanks for the kind words. Hope you check back in soon.

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