Monday, September 13, 2010

Unworthy of the Name

This morning I was jolted awake at an ungodly hour. In a hazy fog I found my clothes and pulled them on while staggering to the door. Half asleep, I drove. Upon arrival I joined the group of well intentioned fools that pay money to be yelled at and forced to stretch and strain our bodies to the point of failure. This is not a few push-ups and sit-ups, but the kind of exertion that elicits dizziness and even occasionally dry-heaving. After the first exercise I'm already thinking, "This was a mistake."

I believe that pain is a mistake. I believe that comfort is right. I organize my life accordingly. Christians don't believe this sort of thing. Christians shouldn't do this sort of thing.

Christians believe that "everyone desiring a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Tim 3.12). They rejoice to be counted worthy of suffering for the name of Jesus (Acts 5.41) because they think they are sharing in his sufferings (1 Pet 4.13-16) and become like him (Phil 3.10-11).

I know that self-flagellation is not the same thing as suffering for identification with Christ. I know that making my body uncomfortable will not be a sacrifice for God. I know that my gym is not comparable to the gymnasiums where the early Christians suffered. Sadly, it's the closest thing I've got.

I think of Polycarp (ca. 155) who was brought into the stadium and commanded, "Swear by the genius of Caesar; repent and say, 'away with the atheists!'"

Looking up at the crowd he said "Away with the atheists!" (The early Christians were accused of Atheism for refusing to honor the pantheon of gods and claiming there is only one God).

"Swear by the Genius of Caesar and I will release you," continued the Roman authority.

Polycarp simply replied, "For eighty-six years I have served him and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?"

Threatened to be devoured by wild animals Polycarp continued his folly. So, he was set ablaze. Tradition says the flames could not consume him so the crowd was forced to kill him with a dagger.

I think of the martyrs of Lyons and Vienne in 177. Blandina‒a slave girl‒endured such torture the crowd "marveled that the breath still remained in a body all mangled and covered with gaping wounds." (The picture above recounts her suffering). These Christians who were rotting in jail for the name wore their chains like jewelry. They endured burnings, beatings, stabbing, dragged behind animals, eaten by wild beasts and impaled on stakes. Those Christians were thankful to suffer for the name.

I struggle to suffer for my own health. I do not know suffering for the name. I wonder if I know Christ? My life is lived in slavish devotion to the desires of my flesh.

God forgive me. I am not worthy of the name.

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