Me First: The Death of Long-Suffering and Sacrificial Love?


The Martyrs Go to the Amphitheater with Joy

In Tertullian of Carthage’s, The Suffering of the Holy Martyrs Perpetua and Felicitas (Translated into English by Dr. Peter Holmes in 1868 ), we read:

“The day of their victory shone forth. They proceeded from the prison into the amphitheater, as if to an assembly, joyous and of brilliant countenances. If by any chance they shrank back, it was with joy, not fear.

“When the populace called them into the midst, that as the sword penetrated into their body they might make their eyes partners in the murder, the martyrs rose up of their own accord and transferred themselves wherever the people wished. First, however, they kissed one another, that they might consummate their martyrdom with the kiss of peace.

“The rest indeed, immoveable and silent, received the sword-thrust. Saturus was ahead of them all. He had first ascended the ladder and first gave up his spirit, for he was waiting for Perpetua. But Perpetua, that she might taste some pain, being pierced between the ribs, cried out loudly. Then she herself placed the wavering right hand of the youthful gladiator to her throat.”

What a Difference an Age Makes: Christians Then—and Now

Have you noticed that many Christians today aren’t that long-suffering, nor are they that sacrificial any more? When things don’t go their way, they can express their dislike “in Christ” with the best of them and join the throng of haters.

Yes, many of us don’t like what’s going on around us or don’t get what we want in this life, and then again, many of us do. But we Christians are called to rejoice with those who rejoice instead of just whining with those who whine—because someone else (even your enemy!) got a better deal. The Bible promises that God causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust.

So if we don’t get what we want from life, I think it would be a faith growing and sharing experience to work towards the goal of getting what we want. It will happen if that is God’s plan for us, or else he’ll redirect us to his best for us. We then could encourage those who may be facing a similar situation of trickery or loss. It’s too easy to blame, plot revenge, and act out aggressively and resentfully. Unfortunately, we only hurt ourselves.

Yet more people prefer to resort to blame and petulance.

Give a Dog a Name and Hang Him

Today lying is considered clever one-upmanship—just a successful manoeuvre to outdo your competitor—or “hurter.” It’s just business. You didn’t intend harm, you were playing all your cards to win.

People find that lying and denial work every single and successive time.

If we label someone as ‘difficult’, or ‘competent’, or ‘manipulative’, or ‘decent’, and if that label is stamped hard, then we can bend any future observations of the behaviour that person exhibits to fit the label. And sometimes we have to do quite a lot of bending in order to excuse ourselves the effort of updating first impressions. What’s more, labelling can happen in an instant—and stick.”

As believers we need to be careful of our words. Think of the most derogatory and slanderous and you can find that it has been used—true or not.

Show What You’re Made Of

If someone has hurt you, try not to add to the negativity around you by misrepresenting the facts, denigrating the person, or joining the throng of haters. A good question to consider is, is our behavior Christlike?

If we are angry at not getting what we want or suffering for being wronged, it helps to keep in mind the stories of the martyrs. Here we will understand what intense persecution and suffering is. It’s not a bad idea to emulate the way they lived out (and are living out) their faith. Recheck what Stephen said when he was stoned. Don’t sit comfortably in your chairs and tweet or type out your pain—that’s so yesterday. As C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Pain is God’s megaphone, intended to make us grow.

And if you know what it feels like to be oppressed—to face every “ism” or phobia under the sun, then reach out to others and treat them with love, compassion, and understanding. Why do the oppressed need to become the oppressors? That’s more like the law of Karma (what you did to me, I’ll do to you and more) than the love of Christ. When does Scripture penetrate our hearts with its truth of loving our enemy? Hatred and name-calling are a lazy person’s friends.

At some point, we need to stop wallowing in the pain and the real or perceived injustice of it all. We need to stop looking for every opportunity to be righteously aggrieved. Let’s get rid of all the baggage that is weighing us down. In every bad or evil event in our lives, as difficult as it is, let us determine to fix our hope in God’s rescue and blessing and in the power of the Holy Spirit to get us through anything this life throws at us.

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Pastor's Wife 2020
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