Faith of the Martyrs

Jennifer Trafton has written an excellent article at Christianity Today about what life was like for the early Christians in a society that often took sport in torturing the followers of Christ.

Ignatius and many other believers in his time were dealing with dilemmas most American Christians will never have to face: “Should I go to the local executioner and volunteer to die for my faith, or should I try to avoid being arrested at all costs? Is it okay to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods just once, if it means staying alive? Does martyrdom bring me closer to the sufferings of Christ? Are martyrs more special than the rest of us?” Questions like these shaped early Christianity.

Polycarp had been a disciple of the apostle John and was a revered elderly leader of the church. The proconsul pled with him: “Curse Christ and I will release you.” Polycarp’s reply is classic: “Eighty-six years I have served Him. He has never done me wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King who has saved me?”

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