We have begun reading Getting to Know the Church Fathers in our summer book group. With Christians around the world facing so many different forms of persecution, the first chapter, on Ignatius of Antioch, brings an ancient perspective on a contemporary challenge. When Ignatius, (who was martyred around 115), was facing his end, he wrote:
I don't want to merely call myself a Christian--I want to back it up when it counts. For if I can back up my words, then I will be worthy of the name of Christian. I will be known as a man of faith even when the world can't see me anymore. It's not the things you can see that have true value. For example, our God Jesus Christ revealed his glory even more clearly when he ascended back to the Father and disappeared. Nothing is really achieved by trying to persuade people. Christianity's true power is discovered only when it is hated by the world. . .
I pray that the events in that arena, and the unseen forces of wickedness behind them, will not conspire against me out of envy and prevent me from reaching Jesus Christ. Bring on the fire, bring on the cross, bring on the hordes of wild animals! Let them wrench my bones out of socket and mangle my limbs and grind up my whole body! Bring on all the hideous tortures from the Devil! Just let me get to Jesus Christ. Nothing on this wide earth matters to me anymore. The kingdoms of this world are entirely meaningless. I am at the point where I would rather die for Jesus Christ than rule over the whole earth. He alone is the one I seek--the one who died for us! It is Jesus that I long for--the one who for our sake rose again from the dead.
So be it.