One Sunday morning I took a chance. I did something I’d never done before, and that I’d never seen done before. We took the morning teaching time and studied church history. I confess I was a little nervous. History isn’t known as a subject that inspires most of us. After all the dates, places, and names of the past may help us with a game of Trivia Pursuit, but that’s about all they can do. Not so with church history. It can inspire.
As we study Christians from the past that put their careers, their families, and their very lives on the line for Christ we are encouraged to live more Godly lives.
Take Ignatius and Polycarp for instance. Two leaders in the early church whom when asked to turn their back on Jesus Christ and live, chose to remain faithful to Him and die. And others followed suit. You see, as those in the early church watched their leaders die for the faith they too were inspired to surrender their lives.
The best example? Take the Christians who lived in Rome under Nero’s reign. The historian Tacitus reminds us that the citizens of Rome believed that it was Nero himself who started the fires that broke out on June 18th, A.D. 64. These fires burned for six days and seven nights destroying ¾ of the city. When it was all over, Nero began looking for scapegoat – someone to blame for the fires. His eyes fell upon the 1st century Christians. Although they were guilty of nothing, Nero sought creative ways to take their lives. He had them dressed in furs to be attacked and killed by dogs. Others he would crucify. Others he would impale upon stakes and light his gardens by night using them as human torches. And still the Christians refused to deny Christ and worship the Roman gods.
What they had found in a personal relationship with Christ sustained them through great suffering. Those early Christians not only discovered a Person worth living for; they had also discovered a cause worth dying for. May we learn our commitment from those who counted the cost and lived like it mattered.