I have been reading the History of Christianity by Gonzalez, Theologians You Should Know by Michael Reeves, and Readings in Christian Thoughts by Hugh Kerr as part of my Seminary course. I have been shocked and rudely awakened by such stark reality of persecutions and courage and conviction with faith for the early Apostolic Fathers to stand up against death and even being fed to the beasts under the 1st and 2nd century brutal regime of the Roman Empires. For refusing to renounce Jesus and hence to worship Caesar, Christians were beheaded, thrown to be devoured by the beasts, Christian leaders were all condemned to death. Peter was crucified upside down, Paul was beheaded, so was John. Then after the first tier Apostles, came the 2nd tier Apostolic Fathers (we call them), like Ignatius, Traneous, Justin Martyr, Polycarp, and even a young woman, Perpetua, all stood tall, and strong and affirmed commitment to the one God Jesus Christ and His Father, and hence were all killed and condemned.
I have heard of the persecutions and even martyrdom of men and women of faith in the early church, but this is my first time going deep, up close, reading the actual stories themselves in my books. Facing the reality of death face to face in such unnatural, frightful, condemning way, really spooked me to and think what went through the minds of these forefathers? Ignatius begged his church in Rome to let him be martyred for the glory of Christ and be more like Christ. Perpetua turned down 3 times the begging from her father to renounce Christ for the sake of her new born baby, and her father and family. She wrote a powerful letter called Perpetua Passion which described all the incidents leading to the final death. That’s even for a woman of faith, not the top apostolic leaders. What a woman of strong faith and conviction, the Lord bless her.
My mind goes what made them to be so strong? Justin Martyr fought against heresy that sought to dilute and change the content of orthodoxy like what we face with numerous heretic teachings to day among some churches. Why did they so willingly die for Christ? When we Christians today struggle to even keep our faith strong and intact, and indeed sadly, many young millennials have drifted away from the orthodoxy and purity of our faith and doctrines. The pertinent ones are like in the name of social justice, homosexuality, that have sadly torn the churches apart. We need more Justin Martyrs, Ignatius, Ignarous, who defended the orthodoxy of the Canon, the Word, so mightily with strong intellectual might and faith in Christ. We need the passion of Christ flowing through our lives.
Surely the ultimate sacrifice of these martres of the early church put us in 21st century christians to shame as we are bothered with little, in comparison, trials. May God arise and Jesus mightily shines in our lives, books, sermons, and teachings. Amen.