Taking up a fatal cross

Polycarp (a.d. 69–155) may have been taught directly by John. He was an apostolic father who learned the faith from someone who learned the faith from Jesus. His Christianity wasn’t safe like mine is. It wasn’t practiced in the friendly confines of a nice church by reciting familiar liturgies. His trust in Christ’s sacrifice was fresh and intense, and every day he faced the likelihood he would have to make his own sacrifice. When he refused to burn incense to the emperor, he was burned at the stake. He was heard to say, “I bless you father for judging me worthy of this hour, so that in the company of martyrs I may share the cup of Christ” (Martyrdom).

We are horrified that Christians around the world are being forced to share the cup of Christ. They authenticate their trust in Jesus’ sacrifice by dying for him. They probably made a promise early in life that they would be willing to give up everything rather than deny their faith. I did too. The difference being, they knew it could mean a lot more than reluctantly rolling out of bed early on a Sunday morning.

It makes me wonder how committed to Christ I really am. Discipleship becomes real when the threats against following Jesus are serious. I know I’ve had it very easy. I hope a brutal captor would hear me say, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

Jason had a career as a teacher, counselor, and leader. He has written and spoken extensively on a variety of topics related to the Christian life. He has been a contributing writer for Time of Grace since 2010. He has authored Grace Moments devotions and Straight Talk Books including, Help Me, Jesus; One Day Full of Grace; and When in Doubt. Jason lives with his wife, Nancy, in Wisconsin.


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