Our Father’s Care Even in the Midst of Persecution
We continue our theme from yesterday about the difficulties of living in the world as a Christian. Jesus makes it clear that if they hated him, they will hate us. We must understand that the world is not our home, that the world is not our friend. The First Epistle of John has many verses that say as much: “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (5:19); and “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (2:15); and finally, “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you” (3:13).
But this gives us no reason to slack: “What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.” There was a time in Jesus’ ministry when he spoke privately to his disciples, but the day would come when they must speak openly. We too read His word and must be prudent in our witnessing (“Do not cast your pearls before swine,” Matthew 7:6). However, the day may come when we must present the word as it is written, and as we read yesterday, we must say a little prayer at that moment and allow the Holy Spirit to speak through us. And we are to remember that we are not to fear the person standing before us who can take our job or do us financial harm or even kill us, but to fear Him who can cast both body and soul into hell. And if we refuse to acknowledge Christ before others, he will refuse to acknowledge us before the Father. Do these words sound hard? Fear not. Our Lord gives us great and precious promises to help us on our journey: Not a sparrow falls to the ground without our Father’s notice, and the very hairs of our head are numbered. We must look beyond the moment and to the reward that follows.
There was an aged bishop named Polycarp at the beginning of the second century. The Roman officers dragged him into the arena. Many had already died, the pagans chanting, “Well washed, well washed,” referring to “baptism” when the Christians were slain in bloody fashion. The Roman officer said, “Renounce Christ.” Polycarp said that he had served him over eighty years and wasn’t going to forsake him now. He then told Polycarp to renounce the atheists (that’s what they called Christians for not worshiping the Roman gods). Polycarp looked around at the crowd and said, “Away with the atheists!” The officer said, “I have fire.” Polycarp responded that his fire lasted only a few moments, but the fire of hell lasted for all eternity. So they set the fire – and it made an arch around the saint and onlookers said that he seemed as gold burning in a furnace.