Lent, Day 13: A Detour

Matthew 24:9-14

Speaking to his disciples, Jesus said, “They will hand you over to be tortured and will put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of my name. Then many will fall away, and they will betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come.”


Lent is a journey, and what journey would be complete without a few excursions on the side? I’m giving John a rest today, so we can take a bit of a detour to tackle a different subject.

Today is the feast day of Perpetua and Felicitas, two martyrs of the early church. For those who don’t know, Perpetua and Felicitas were two women who were executed under Roman law for being Christians. Perpetua was a nursing mother, and Felicitas was her pregnant servant. Both refused to renounce their faith, and thus both were executed by first by being mauled by wild animals, and then ultimately put to the sword. As the story goes, the soldier given the task of killing Perpetua was a novice, and hesitant to carry out the deed, so Perpetua took the sword into her own hands and guided it to her throat, to make sure the deed was done. If you’re going to die for your faith, you might as well do it right, eh?

 

First, let me say that this is not a pretty story. It’s not supposed to be. This is a story of martyrs, people who were persecuted and put to death for their faith in Christ. It’s not supposed to put you in a good mood. It’s supposed to hit hard, and hit fast: what we are doing in being Christians is ultimately about life and death, and that the faith is worth fighting for, worth dying for.

 

I like to have fun on this blog, as you all well know. I joke and I post silly pictures, partially for my own entertainment, and partially to keep things in perspective. However, perspective cuts both ways. Occasionally, we need a detour into a different part of the path, and sometimes its not quite so lighthearted.

 

 

I look at this passage from Matthew, and it brings it home to me how dangerous the gospel message is. It’s a radical vision of who God is, and what God has planned for God’s children. The harsh truth is, there are consequences to having a radical vision. There are consequences to not throwing a pinch of incense to the emperor. There are consequences for letting the dead bury their dead. There are consequences to taking up your cross and following Jesus. Sometimes, those consequences mean you wind up on the wrong end of a sword, or a gun for that matter.

 

While most of us don’t have to deal with Imperial persecution much in America, this is not the case in most of the world. The vision that the church has for the world is very much at odds with the how things are usually done in the world. The emperor says peace through victory and conquest: Christ says peace through justice, love, and faith. The emperor rules through fear; Christ rules through hope.

 

What is at stake is nothing less than life and death. Perpetua and Felicitas knew this, all the way to the bitter end. They knew that Christ was worth dying for. After all, Christ taught us that in losing our lives, we save them. God give us all the perseverance and clarity to see the truth, and when persecution comes, may God give us the strength to endure.

 

 

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About grantimusmax

Grant Barnes, aka Grantimus Maximus, aka The Nerdcore Theologian. He is a graduate of Perkins School of Theology with a Masters Degree in Divinity. He is also a commissioned elder in the United Methodist Church, and Senior Pastor at Hemphill First United Methodist Church and Pineland United Methodist Church. He graduated from Texas State University Cum Laude with a Bachelor's degree in English, minor in History. He watches way too many movies, reads too many books, listens to too much music, and plays too many video games to ever join the mundane reality people claim is the "Real World." He rejects your reality, and replaces it with a vision of what could be, a better one, shaped by his love for God.
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