Reading through Ecclesiastical History by Eusbias (a full “review ” will be forthcoming), and one thing keeps coming to the surface, the early congregation was largely populated by believers who were ready, even cheerful to be martyred.
Those who were became celebrities with those who survived. Their deaths and preceeding tortures were hailed the way professional athletes are.
In contrast, I have an elder brother in HaShem that suffered a stroke, and all of us around are praying for his recovery and there is a sense of dread surrounding the whole affair as we wait to see how permanent the damage could be. Or how many days left he has in this world?
We were singing hymns and suddenly they took on different meaning. “Take me life?” Faith of our Father, anyone?
Don’t get me wrong, but odds are every talmid, every disciple, reading this is going to die. The point of the Glad Tidings or Gospel is not that we don’t die. It’s not that we die comfortably in our sleep. It’s certainly not that we have a cushy life with a yacht, six figures, and a cruise control family. If anything, Yeshua promises us affliction, trial, being hated, being divided from your family, to be figuratively, if not literally, crucified.
The Glad Tidings is that the promises of HaShem overcome these. That his riches outweigh the suffering of this life. Properly understood we should see death as the finish line where an Olympian crosses to receive his medal. It should be like the Price Is Right where everything behind the door is a better prize. It should be like coming home.
So what does it say when we dread death? I’m not talking about mourning. We must mourn because we are human. We should weep, but we don’t weep for our brothers who have left victorious (though we certainly should weep for those who leave defeated). We weep for those left behind. We weep for the world that is a little darker without them. We weep for all our missed opportunities to love someone the Father loves.
But for them? And for ourselves staring into our own mortality? And for those in conversation with us about a future death? Shouldn’t we be saying to each other, “Don’t worry. Your turn will come.”
Instead of praying for recovery, perhaps we should pray first that we each overcome? That our death be worthy? Not to avoid suffering but for strength to laugh in it’s face.
I wonder if that’s why the body is so sick? Or one of the reasons. We get hung up on how the world sees us as inviting or judgmental. The Early believers were willing to die rather than sacrifice to the gods of Rome, you think that was less judgmental than refusing to bake a cake?
“I’m gay and I know there’s a ton of other bakeries that would do this, but I went into the one I knew would have a moral problem. Will you make me a gay wedding cake? ”
“I’d rather be eaten by wild animals along with my children, while people cheer.”
The early believers weren’t concerned about being inviting, but their opponents often became converts on the basis of what they were willing to gladly sacrifice.
Let’s get back to our roots. If the thought of your death doesn’t put a smile on your face, it’s time to ask why.