My husband and I watched the movie, Paul, Apostle of Christ, over the weekend and I am still thinking about it. In particular, I’m reflecting on the sacrifice the early believers made for their faith.
During the first century reign of Roman emperor Nero, Nero blamed Christians for a devastating fire that burned part of Rome, a fire he most likely started. But in order to take the attention off himself, Nero ordered that Christians be killed to pay for setting the fire. Some were eaten by dogs or burnt alive as human torches, which the movie pictured.
I remember writing a paper in my Christian history class about a martyr named Perpetua. Perpetua was a Christian woman and a mom who lived at the end of the third century and was one of the first to be arrested under the rule of Emperor Septimius Severus. Severus wanted to do away with Christianity because he thought it undermined Roman patriotism. When Perpetua’s dad, a pagan, came to visit her in prison, he pleaded for her to save herself by denying she was a Christian. This was their conversation:
“Father do you see this vase here?” she replied. “Could it be called by any other name than what it is?”
“No,” he replied.
“Well, neither can I be called anything other than what I am, a Christian.” (Christianity Today International, July/August 2018).
When I think about the martyrs, especially those who lived in the same century Jesus lived, martyrs that may have walked with him, or at a minimum knew someone who witnessed Jesus’ resurrection, it strengthens my own faith. People don’t die for a lie.
One day, the martyrs’ sacrifice will be avenged. In Revelation 6:9–11, John sees the souls of those who had been slain “because of the word of God and the testimony that they had maintained.” They asked God, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” One day God will sentence all those who took the lives of Christians, both the early believers and the ones who are still losing their lives for their faith today.
Tomorrow, as we celebrate our freedom as a nation, let’s don’t take our religious freedom in the United States for granted, because it does not exist in many other parts of the world. Let’s be thankful for our first amendment right to speak about our faith, Let’s continue to fight for our freedom and remember the sacrifice of the martyrs who stood firm on their faith, despite the cost.
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).