Monday, September 1, 2008

Mike Baker on Martyrdom

Mike Baker wrote the following, worthy of some serious meditation:

Read this passage and weep at how far we have degraded from the early church! As modern Christians try to copy the early church in her practice and legacy, hear very personal words from one of our early patriarchs. We who are Christian elitists complain when our congregation's climate control does not work properly on Sunday and we presume to even hint that we practice as they practiced?

Modern Christians institute "home church" and "small groups" and all other sorts of novel concepts under the false justification that they are following the ways of the early church. There is a difference between pretending to be like the early church in superficial things and learning from the apostolic example. To quote the passage presented below: "Do not talk Jesus Christ and set your heart on the world."

We need to rethink what we call persecution. We need to rethink what we consider to be difficult times and suffering. Our view of discipline is a mere shadow. It has the shape of following Christ, but none of the form or depth that distinguishes the real object from the darkened, two-dimensional copy that is cast to the ground by the light.

Modern church dilutes the message of Christ for mere public approval while scores of disciples of the early church eagerly waited to die for their own faith as their witness to the truth of the Gospel. Our view of showing the world a true "witness" is a pathetic farce. When we think "witness" we think of mailers, t-shirts, and telling co-workers that we will pray for them. We should rename our current Synodical outreach movement Spark! or Flicker! compared to with the steadfast, blood-written testimony of our church fathers as they pointed to Christ with their last breaths. They were ablaze. We're just blowing smoke.

This kind of "extreme" talk from the early fathers is so alien to our current brand of religion that it makes modern Christians very uncomfortable:

"You never grudged anyone. You taught others. So I want you to substantiate the lessons that you bid them heed. Just pray that I may have strength of soul and body so that I may not only talk [about martyrdom], but really want it. It is not that I want to merely be called a Christian, but actually to be one. Yes, if I prove to be one, then I can have the name. Then, too, I shall be a convincing Christian only when the world sees me no more. Nothing you can see has real value. Our God Jesus Christ, indeed, has revealed himself more clearly by returning to the Father. The greatness of Christianity lies in its being hated by the world, no in its being convincing to it."

"I am corresponding with all the churches and bidding them all realize that I am voluntarily dying for God--if, that is, you do not interfere. I plead with you, do not do me an unseasonable kindness. Let me be fodder for wild beasts--that is how I can get to God. I am God's wheat and I am being ground by the teeth of wild beasts to make a pure loaf for Christ. I would rather that you fawn on the beasts so that they may be my tomb and no scrap of my body be left. Thus when I have fallen asleep, I shall be a burden to no one. Then I shall be a real disciple of Jesus Christ when the world sees my body no more. Pray Christ for me that by these means I may become God's sacrifice. I do not give you orders like Peter and Paul. They were apostles: I am a convict. They were at liberty: I am still a slave. But if I suffer, I shall be emancipated by Jesus Christ; and united to him, I shall rise to freedom."

"Even now as a prisoner, I am learning to forgo my own wishes. All the way from Syria to Rome I am fighting with wild beasts, by land and sea, night and day, chained as I am to ten leopards (I mean to a detachment of soldiers), who only get worse the better you treat them. But by their injustices I am becoming a better disciple, "though not for that reason am I acquitted." What a thrill I shall have from the wild beasts that are ready for me! I hope they will make short work of me. I shall coax them on to eat me up at once and not to hold off, as sometimes happens, through fear. And if they are reluctant, I shall force them to it. Forgive me--I know what is good for me. Now is the moment I am beginning to be a disciple. May nothing seen or unseen begrudge me making my way to Jesus Christ. Come fire, cross, battling with wild beasts, wrenching of bones, mangling of limbs, crushing of my whole body, cruel tortures of the devil--only let me get to Jesus Christ! Not the wide bounds of earth nor the kingdoms of this world will avail me anything. "I would rather die" and get to Jesus Christ, than reign over the ends of the earth. That is whom I am looking for--the One who died for us. That is whom I want--the One who rose for us. I am going through the pangs of being born. Sympathize with me, my brothers! Do not stand in the way of my coming to life--do not wish death on me. Do not give back to the world one who wants to be God's; do not trick him with material things. Let me get into the clear light and manhood will be mine. Let me imitate the Passion of my God. If anyone has Him in him, let him appreciate what I am longing for, and sympathize with me, realizing what I am going through."

"The prince of this world wants to kidnap me and pervert my godly purpose. None of you, then, who will be there, must abet him. Rather be on my side--that is, on God's. Do not talk Jesus Christ and set your heart on the world. Harbor no envy. If, when I arrive, I make a different plea, pay no attention to me. Rather heed what I am now writing to you. For though alive, it is with a passion for death that I am writing to you. My Desire has been crucified and there burns in me no passion for material things. There is living water in me, which speaks and says inside me, "Come to the Father." I take no delight in corruptible food or in the dainties of this life. What I want is God's bread, which is the flesh of Christ, who came from David's line; and for drink I want his blood: an immortal love feast indeed!"

"I do not want to live anymore on a human plane. And so it shall be, if you want it to. Want it to, so that you will be wanted!"

St. Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr, from his Letter to the Romans, [ca 110 A.D.]