Friday, March 01, 2013

A Woman in History


March has been designated as women's history month. There are many women around the world who stand courageously against violence and who pave ways for other women. But I am submitting the name of a young woman named Blandina. I am sure she will not be recognized by the media. So I repost this:

One sure way to have a wrong and superficial perspective on things is to be ignorant of history and be blind to a greater reality. The story I am about to share is only one of many thousands over the course of two thousand years, but it represents a looking glass into both the glory of Christ as well as the state of western Christianity.

Her name was Blandina, and she was a frail, teenage slave girl in the 2nd century A.D.. She and her master lived in Rome and they had become Christians. It was during this time that pagan Rome became thirsty for the blood of Christians, and slaves were a unique target. It was thought that through torture the slaves would both renounce their faith and implicate their masters as well. With this in mind the little slave girl was arrested in 177 A.D..

As the Romans cast their eyes upon her it was evident that her stature would not endure much pain and suffering, and that she would quickly acquiesce to their demands of renunciation. She was unmercifully beaten and tortured, and her courage frustrated the Roman torturers. They returned and informed the magistrate that they had exhausted themselves in beatings and torture, but to no avail. All this little slave girl would say, “I am a Christian and I commit no wrongdoing”. The Romans would hear her pray for them and her fellow believers.

After this she was brought into the arena that housed the ferocious beasts and she was made to watch unspeakable horrors as her brothers and sisters were torn to shreds and eaten by wild animals. Instead of begging for mercy, this frail little girl began to cry out encouragement to her fellow believers and for them to be strong in faith, hope, and love. When the Romans heard her they brought her into the arena and tied her to a stake. She began to humbly pray for her captors.

Shockingly, though, the animals would not attack her. Frustrated once more, the Romans tied her to a gate and placed her before a vicious bull who gored her to death. She died with intercession on her lips and her remains were fed to the beasts. The testimony of this brave girl lives on until today. It was not uncommon for heathens to embrace Christ based largely on the faithfulness and demeanor they witnessed from Christian martyrs.

Against that backdrop let us examine the depth of Christianity that is prevalent today. Instead of praying for our enemies, the church is consumed with political wrangling and many embrace the caustic rhetoric of talk show hosts. Instead of humility many believe that fighting “fire with fire” is the ministry of God’s Spirit. Instead of living lives of quiet contentment and marginal sustenance, western believers enjoy many of the same amusements as do the heathens and they store up vast sums of money for themselves.

Suffering is out of spiritual vogue, and God’s blessings, mostly defined as material benefits, have replaced the glorious blessings of suffering for Christ. Oh for a return when all we think is Christ and all we serve is Christ and our lives are at His command, even unto death. Where are the days when the “things of this world grow strangely dim” and we are persecuted for Jesus’ sake and not some belligerent political rhetoric? When will those who bear His name be so humble, so compassionate, and so faithful to His gospel that sinners must either melt or throw stones? And when you read the story of Blandina, does your mind battle to even believe such a thing?

It is absurd to contend that we who sit behind glowing screens, or who talk on radio programs, or who write and profit from books, are warriors of God’s truth when believers like this one, frail slave girl has put us all to shame. We have tarnished the glory of God by allowing ourselves to be called "conservatives", and we squawk with the world when the government abuses our finances. In America we are one right wing voice among many, wholly unremarkable and even joining with unbelievers in our quest to manipulate society. We refuse to even see that God may desire persecution, and yet we battle it and resist it.

We seem to be proficient at orchestrating such melodrama as it concerns today’s battle against liberalism and post modern dilution, but where pray tell is our power? Where is our sacrifice? Where is the unmistakable and distinguishing essence that would lead pagans to Christ based substantially on our lives – where is the love of Almighty God through us? How have we changed the God of the cross into the God of democracy, morality, and the western hedonistic lifestyle? And yet, like Samson, we do not even recognize that our power is literally gone. Without a painful and humilitiating inventory, followed by a massive revival, New Testament Christianity in the west will remain represented by a mirage and a human forgery.

We even have the audacity to claim our controversy is some kind of “truth war”, and yet this bloodless and air conditioned “war” bears no resemblance to the selflessness of the cross and followers like Blandina. Our war is fought on radio shows, and in book stores, and in pitiful protests that seem to make us feel good about our “boldness” but costs nothing but an occasional terse word, which we immediately amplify to all who will hear as a trophy of martyrdom. In this battle we load our guns with the ammunition of caustic rhetoric and systematic theology, but void of the explosive power of humility, sacrifice, and God’s love, our weapons are carnal and spiritually unusable. We shoot sinners in need and we ignore the needs of fellow saints, except those who are doctrinally and geographically convenient.

We spend vast amounts of money to hold conferences where we can pass out platitudes among ourselves for our “bold and daring” verbal assents to doctrinal truth, while many heroes in Christ go unnoticed in Darfur, Pakistan, China, and other obscure places in the uttermost parts of the world. King David would not dare drink of Bethlehem’s well because he realized the valor of these men forbid him such a luxury, yet we go on Christian cruises, wasting obscene amounts of money and gorging ourselves, while brothers and sisters are in dire need and face certain death around the world. Can there be any more profound hypocrisy??

The disgrace and shame of the western church is uncovered in God’s sight and yet we refuse to blush. Our ignorance is only equaled by our insolent hedonism, faring sumptuously while beggars go hungry, even some who name His name. And when we read the account of someone like Blandina, it, like a court jester to a king, amuses us and perhaps elicits some insignificant emotion, but little else. These testimonies of days gone by will not even open church doors during the week for meetings of intercession and prayer. Prayer for our suffering brethren, you ask? Oh yes, but also prayer that God would break our hearts by showing us a mirror of ourselves and compare it to a portrait of His will.

A little slave girl, filled with God’s Spirit, prays for her executioners and brings no railing accusation to her torturers. Yet we, as modern examples of believers, yell at sinners, call them sarcastic names, and pounce upon them with clubs of doctrinal purity, all while contending they cannot even understand such things in their present state. Please do not contend with me concerning our great adherence to Christ in these last days. Please do not suggest we sacrifice in even the smallest of ways. Do not speak to me about how we show the love of God in our speech and actions. Please refrain from hinting that we western believers mirror anything close to New Testament teachings. Happy and comfortable in our little local conclaves, we are an accepted part of the western societal experience, but a salt less embarrassment to heaven. If we refuse to repent, let us at least remain silent.

Surely the coming of our Blessed Lord is nigh, but are His worshipers asleep in His fields? Have we made Babylon our marketplace and template? It is time to reevaluate who Christ is. Is He Lord, or is He not? Is He still the Suffering Servant in this present world, or is He interested in the culture wars? Was He more manifested in Blandina than He is in the modern church? We must examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith, not just are we saved, but are we walking entirely in the Kingdom of God. We must reach out into the darkness with a gospel light that does not flicker with the winds of this world, and that joyfully endures the scorn from those who are both blind to their need as well as blind to God’s love.

We must be Jesus again.


Annette said...

This is lovely, Pastor Rick.

Thank-you for putting the things of this life into perspective. May Jesus be lifted up today in the lives of His people!

michael said...

Wow, that hurt and was humiliating to read!


Cherie c. said...

Yes, this post really makes you pause and take stock.

If that time comes to us, the Lord will give us strength to endure won't He?

God forgive me for my fear.

your sister in Christ Jesus,
Cherie c.