Stage Fright of the Early Christians

Got inspired with the vesper prayer meeting message delivered by Bro. Wilson Sia on the Second Chapter of The Great Controversy. Here’s my take on that chapter.

“All the world’s a stage, 

And all the men and women merely players:

They have their exits and their entrances”

William Shakespeare, “As You Like It”

The ancient playwright who mentioned this seemed to have hit the spot.

Many times, we seem relate to the dramas that we watch on TV and on the theaters. The programs draw out some sort of experience from a distant corner of our past. The situations on the drama seem to bring us to what happened to us back then. This simple paradigm made the drama anthology popular. Whether it’s Spanish, Mexican, Asian, or local Filipino, Filipinos find it easy to connect. So no matter how long the story took, most people enjoy the ride (some drama anthologies on Philippine TV reached almost or half of a decade that by the time the anthology ended, the characters that started the anthology were completely different from those who ended it and the story took so many twists and turns, it became hard to figure out the entire plot of the anthology).

Every person’s story is a drama anthology. There are certain twists and turns that are worthy of whole tele-drama. Sometimes it’s a comedy or an action packed thriller. Probably it’s because most films and TV shows pattern their shows to people’s lives.

More than any television program, the whole human story is also a story worth telling. For the record we had two world wars and a lot of other wars in between. We have discovered thousands of things that made our lives a tad easier. We have also discovered thousands of things that made our lives a tad harder. Our story had its breakthroughs and its breakdowns. All of those worthy of shedding tears, giving laughter, and sometimes bringing anxiety or stress.

The story of the Christian persecution alone could bring tears to any eye. Imagine the things that happened to the early Christians under the Roman Empire. They were beaten, tortured, burned alive, crucified, and fed to lions. When Shakespeare said that “all the world’s a stage,” to the early Christians, that stage is a shuddering thought when alongside you in that stage is a hungry lion or dog baring its fangs to mangle you.

The second chapter of the Great Controversy by Ellen Gould White brings us exactly to that scene. The early Christians begged for their lives and even hid in mountains, caves, deserts and what not, so as to survive and to preserve that belief in Christ. Their cry according to her, You may “kill us, torture us, condemn us…. Your injustice is the proof that we are innocent…. Nor does your cruelty … avail you.” It was but a stronger invitation to bring others to their persuasion. “The oftener we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed.”

What’s so amazing was that for each early Christina martyr who died, several others would be convicted by the Holy Spirit. Instead of reducing their ranks, the faithful early Christians increased in number all hiding in remote areas. A lot of them professing and continuing the work left to them by Christ Himself. Those who were caught were stood firm to their beliefs that others may be blessed.  God always has a plan for His children even if they are in tight situations. All we have to do is trust in Him.

Apparently, God was not the only one who had a plan during that time. According to Mrs. White, Satan also had a plan. “Satan therefore laid his plans to war more successfully against the government of God, by planting his banner in the Christian church. If the followers of Christ could be deceived, and led to displease God, then their strength, fortitude, and firmness would fail, and they would fall an easy prey.”

The enemy decided to change plans, outside attack was not working. God’s people were increasing. So Satan probably decided to do an inside attack and planted false Christians among them. Frontal assault was not working. Face to face persecution wasn’t fool proof. So persecution began from within.

This led me to ask, what is real persecution?

Is it when someone tries to torture you, butcher you to a half dead state? Is it when someone tries to plant evidences against you and send you to prison despite being innocent? Or is it when someone offers you a house and lot and a multimillion business for free?

Don’t get me wrong, getting imprisoned, tortured, burned at the stake, eaten by dangerous beasts, or even insulted for what we believe in, though passé, still do happen on a daily basis. There are still Christian martyrs who die while upholding their Christian faith. Those people are admirably.

Yet for those of us living in a time or land with plenty of opportunities and some sort of religious freedom, shouldn’t we think that maybe, just maybe, the enemy decided to try a different tactic with us? Something that would surely persecute us a little different from those Christian martyrs.

Sometimes, we think that we live happy lives. We enjoy simple things in life not knowing that those simple things are the ones that persecute us. Sometimes we may not know it but the fun times are the ones that pluck our eyes from our real goal. How firmly grounded in faith are you? After accepting Christ, have you accepted and practiced His truths? How much fun are you having? How much happiness are you having from those fun times?

I dare not go into specifics but I believe that a little introspection Is necessary. For you, for me, for everyone. Mrs. White even admonishes us, “Let there be a revival of the faith and power of the early church, and the spirit of persecution will be revived, and the fires of persecution will be rekindled.” 

Think deep. Live deep. Make no compromises.

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