blog Theology

The Strength of Christ – Aaron Simms

“Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”  These are Jesus Christ’s phrase to us, as we learn in Luke 6:27-38 in the present day.

In fact, what our world needs rather more of is mercy.  Jesus points out that God “is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”  God makes the sun to rise on both good and evil, and sends rain on the just and unjust.  He sent His own Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem us from sin while we have been yet enemies.  God, the Creator of all issues, is variety to those who hate Him.  We are referred to as to be and do the same.

Mercy seems to be briefly provide on the earth.  Individuals say hateful and atrocious things to one another on-line and in individual, or act impolite or thoughtless in the direction of one another.  We see this conduct in others and, in moments of readability, we see it in ourselves.

It’s exhausting sufficient for us to be type and merciful to those we love, and yet Jesus calls us to be sort and merciful to those who hate us as properly.

We see this type of mercy played out with the account of Joseph and his brothers in Genesis 45.  His brothers had meant to kill him out of jealously, but ended up promoting him into slavery.  Joseph, nevertheless, ended up rising to prominence in Egypt as a result of God’s windfall.  What his brothers had meant for evil, God used for good.  Joseph was then able the place he might have exacted vengeance upon his brothers who had hated them.  Yet, not solely did he have mercy upon them, however he rejoiced to see them again. This is the mercy of our heavenly Father who welcomes us again into the fold once we sin towards Him.

How may we show this similar mercy to others?  We’d not have been bought into slavery by our brothers, but we will present mercy in other methods.  We will open doorways for individuals, give a sort smile, put one of the best development on what they are saying, assist them when needed.

And if we’re referred to as to do that for our enemies, most definitely are we referred to as to do so for the other youngsters of our heavenly Father.  We will put the most effective development on the beliefs of our fellow Christians, pray for them and with them, as a result of we’re all united in Christ.

And it’s Christ who provides us power and hope and love for the trials of this life.  Particularly, since Christ has already conquered demise, we too know that we’ve got this victory as properly.  This provides us the power to endure and to like others.

Yesterday was the feast day of St. Polycarp when his martyrdom in 155 AD is remembered.  He was the bishop of Smyrna and was a minimum of 86 years previous when he was killed by the Roman authorities within the stadium in the city.  Polycarp was a scholar of the Apostle John and taught St. Irenaeus. An account of Polycarp’s dying was written by the Christians of his town shortly after his demise and circulated among the Church.  In truth, at the finish of it there’s a postscript containing the names of all who copied the actual copy of the letter that we’ve got, beginning with Irenaeus.

Polycarp’s demise was apparently the top of a collection of martyrdoms in Smyrna in an area persecution of Christians by the Roman proconsul Lucius Statius Quadratus.  The written account data different deaths before Polycarp, of men and women being scourged, torn by wild beasts, and burned alive in the stadium.  One such man was St. Germanicus, who was only 17 years previous.  The proconsul provided to spare him, if only he would recant his belief in Christ; in response, Germanicus “dragged the wild beast towards him, desiring the more speedily to obtain a release from their unrighteous and lawless life,” in accordance with the account.

After Germanicus’ dying, the pagan crowd demanded that Polycarp be introduced earlier than them to be killed.  He was the bishop and previous and well-known.  The authorities went to fetch him, finding him in a farm home and “marveling at his age and his constancy, and wondering how there should be so much eagerness for the apprehension of an old man like him.”  The account continues:

“Thereupon forthwith he gave orders that a table should be spread for them to eat and drink at that hour, as much as they desired. And he persuaded them to grant him an hour that he might pray unmolested; and on their consenting, he stood up and prayed, being so full of the grace of God, that for two hours he could not hold his peace, and those that heard were amazed, and many repented that they had come against such a venerable old man.”

They then brought him to the chief of police, who delivered him to the stadium.  They tried to get him to worship the emperor, quite than Christ, however Polycarp refused.

The account says: “as Polycarp entered into the stadium, a voice came to him from heaven; ‘Be strong, Polycarp, and play the man.’ And no one saw the speaker, but those of our people who were present heard the voice. And at length, when he was brought up, there was a great tumult, for they heard that Polycarp had been apprehended.”

The proconsul questioned Polycarp and tried to get him to worship Caesar.  He stated, “‘Swear the oath, and I will release you; revile the Christ,’ Polycarp said, ‘Eighty and six years have I been His servant, and He has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King who saved me?’”

The account continues:

“But on his persisting again and saying, ‘Swear by the genius of Caesar,” he answered:

‘If you suppose vainly that I will swear by the genius of Caesar, as you say, and feign that you are ignorant who I am, hear me plainly, I am a Christian. But if you would learn the doctrine of Christianity, assign a day and give me a hearing.’

The proconsul stated; ‘Prevail upon the people.’

But Polycarp stated:

‘As for yourself, I should have held you worthy of discourse; for we have been taught to render, as is proper, to princes and authorities appointed by God such honor as does us no harm; but as for these, I do not hold them worthy, that I should defend myself before them.’

Whereupon the proconsul stated; ‘I have wild beasts here and I will throw you to them, unless you repent.’

However he stated, ‘Call for them: for the repentance from better to worse is a change not permitted to us; but it is a noble thing to change from untowardness to righteousness.’

Then he stated to him again, ‘I will cause you to be consumed by fire, if you despise the wild beasts, unless you repent.’

However Polycarp stated:

‘You threaten that fire which burns for a season and after a little while is quenched: for you are ignorant of the fire of the future judgment and eternal punishment, which is reserved for the ungodly. But why do you delay? Come, do what you will.’

The crowd then demanded Polycarp’s dying by hearth, to be burned alive.  They really went and gathered wooden on which to burn him, making a pile.  The authorities have been going to nail him to a stake within the midst of it, but Polycarp stated that it was unnecessary, as a result of the Lord would give him the power to stay unmoved within the midst of the flames.  So, they tied him as an alternative.

“Then he, putting his arms behind him and being sure to the stake, like a noble ram out of an amazing flock for an providing, a burnt sacrifice made prepared and acceptable to God, wanting as much as heaven stated:

O Lord God Almighty,

the Father of Thy beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ,

by way of whom we’ve got acquired the information of Thee,

the God of angels and powers and of all creation

and of the entire race of the righteous, who stay in Thy presence;

I bless Thee for that Thou hast granted me this present day and hour,

that I’d receive a portion amongst the quantity of martyrs

within the cup of Thy Christ unto resurrection of eternal life,

both of soul and of body,

within the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit.

Might I be acquired among these in Thy presence this present day,

as a rich and acceptable sacrifice,

as Thou didst prepare and reveal it beforehand,

and hast completed it,

Thou that artwork the trustworthy and true God.

For this cause, yea and for all things,

I praise Thee, I bless Thee,

I glorify Thee, by means of the everlasting and heavenly Excessive-priest,

Jesus Christ, Thy beloved Son,

by means of whom with Him and the Holy Spirit be glory

both now and ever and for the ages to return.

Amen.”

After Polycarp stated “Amen,” the hearth was lit.  But, the hearth shaped right into a vault round Polycarp and did not burn him.  He was “like a loaf in the oven or like gold or silver refined in a furnace.”  And the individuals “perceived such a fragrant smell, as if it were the wafted odor of frankincense or some other precious spice.”

“So at length the lawless men, seeing that his body could not be consumed by the fire, ordered an executioner to go up to him and stab him with a dagger. And when he had done this, there came forth a dove and a quantity of blood, so that it extinguished the fire; and all the multitude marveled that there should be so great a difference between the unbelievers and the elect.  In the number of these was this man, the glorious martyr Polycarp, who was found an apostolic and prophetic teacher in our own time, a bishop of the holy Church which is in Smyrna. For every word which he uttered from his mouth was accomplished and will be accomplished.”

The account then says that the authorities didn’t need to permit the Christians to take Polycarp’s body away as a result of they apprehensive that “they should abandon the crucified one and begin to worship this man.”  As the author points out, the authorities did not know “that it will be impossible for us either to forsake at any time the Christ who suffered for the salvation of the whole world of those that are saved – suffered though faultless for sinners – nor to worship any other.  For Him, being the Son of God, we adore, but the martyrs as disciples and imitators of the Lord we cherish as they deserve for their matchless affection towards their own King and Teacher. May it be our lot also to be found partakers and fellow-disciples with them.”

Indeed, and Amen.

(Picture: Detail of the interior of citadel church Schwerin, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Deutschland.  By Sebastian Wallroth – Own work, CC BY three.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40802264)