The women of old, and countless others all over the world, are true examples of God-designed womanhood and femininity. They are women who give themselves, just as Christ gave Himself for us. They are women who walk confidently and gracefully and captivate the watching world with their genuine love and contagious zeal and passion for Jesus Christ. Though they are surrounded by the same mendacious voices that we are bombarded by every day, only One Voice is heard and that is the voice of Christ alone.
I enjoy reading stories of great men and women who have tapped into a power far greater than what we naturally possess. Hollywood gossip and news about the latest break-up or drug rehab is foolish and a waste of time, unless you spend a moment in prayer for those in California and New York. Their stories, if anything, should motivate us to have more passion to see the lost come to know Christ. They definitely should not fan a flame of obsession with Hollywood's latest buzz. Stories of utter devotion to Christ captivate me and inspire me. Stories of those who suffered and died horrible, horrendous deaths rouse and stir me and make me examine the conviction of my faith. These men and women gave their lives for the testimony of the Gospel of Christ, and it wasn’t for their glory, but for the Lord’s. They were selfless. They had servant’s hearts and their desire was to serve their King as long as breath was in their body. By making such a choice, it often meant losing their homes, their businesses, their families, their freedom, and ultimately their life. Most of them were not simply killed, but tortured and then slaughtered.
Very often, we tend to think suffering for Christ means ignoring a hateful comment or turning down a sinful offer. Many of us view torture and death as a thing of the past; persecution being a thing from long ago. We view the term “martyr” as something from the 13th century, but never see the gruesome reality of martyrdom today. The truth is, religious persecution and slaying began long ago, but it still goes on today all over the world.
By and large, most of us believe we could handle ourselves and confess the name of Christ if a gun were to our heads. In that, death is swift and painless. But could we bear the kind of unspeakable and horrific pain that so many all over the world have endured? Could we remain steadfast and unmovable through physical agony and shame or would we beg and plead for our lives? Could we embrace the honor of a martyrs death with joy? I often wonder if my faith is great enough, if my love is strong enough, or my witness and boldness fervent enough.
Looking back through history, we can see how many remarkable men and women of the faith faced the villain who attempted to steal glory from God Almighty. Hundreds upon thousands perished during terrible religious persecution. Some were placed in stocks; others were placed in a hot-iron seat where their flesh was burned. Some died in the arena as hungry lions tore at their flesh; others were covered with pitch and were set on fire as human torches to light the streets of Rome.
In the vast expanse of this earth, lived out by thousands of people around the world, there are a few such women who have found an existence that is more rewarding and fulfilling than any glamorous Hollywood celebrity life. They have found freedom. They have found truth. They have found a God worth living for and worth dying for. Through misery and physical anguish they had complete trust in a living, breathing, most holy God; not a religion or a state of mind, but a transcendent reality that gave them strength, boldness, beauty, and joy in the face of poverty and persecution.
Let's talk about Blandina....
Amazingly, none of the wild beasts attacked Blandina that day, so she was taken down and thrown into prison again. Days later, she was brought out, once more, to the amphitheater. They enclosed her in a net and threw her before a bull. After being tossed about by the animal, she was sacrificed. Her body, along with the bodies of her fellow Christians, were exposed for six days, then were burned into ashes and thrown into the Rhone river. The bodies of those who had suffocated and died in the prison cells were thrown to dogs and were guarded to prevent the remaining Christians from burying them.
Blandina courageously confessed her commitment to Jesus Christ and refused to accept the comfort of life over rejecting her precious Savior. In the face of danger and ultimately death, she honored God by her courage and her faithfulness. It was said of her, Blandina was filled with such power, that her ingenious tormentors, who relieved and succeeded each other from morning till night, confessed that they were overcome and had nothing more that they could inflict upon her. They were amazed that she continued to breathe after her whole body was pierced and torn asunder. In the midst of her sufferings, as she for a moment revived, she repeatedly exclaimed, ‘I am a Christian; no wickedness is carried on by us!’
When I first read the story of Blandina, I was blown away by her courage and steadfast character. She was so young, and yet filled with an incredible force of faith and passion. Jesus meant more to her than her life. Many of us often say similar things. We declare that Jesus is our all and we proclaim that He is everything to us, and yet we are nowhere close to possessing the passion of those such as Blandina. Though those words are only spoken by the devout and the pious, they are also spoken by those who literally give no thought to their own life. They are crucified with Christ and they understand the real, and somewhat terrifying, meaning of “dying to self.”
These days, we think more of exposing our dirty laundry than actually washing it and being rid of the stains of sin altogether. While the call is to die to the world and to our own flesh, we look for a way to bend the rules and ease such a high expectation. While the mission is to forsake all earthly enticements and all that extracts the truth from the Gospel, we slack on the job and cower down into a pitiful mess of a Christian. In our typical suburbia Church of the 21st century, “dying to self” has been replaced with the “just be real” mentality that splatters muck and mire on the beautiful and glorious image of a Christ-built existence. Instead of bravely hungering after the ancient pathway marked with God’s fingerprints, we retreat with little or no concern.
I cannot count the many numerous people I have watched slide down the slope of compromise and spiritual denial. God’s intention and destiny for us is a far cry from the lackadaisical lifestyle so prevalent in our culture today. He calls us all to discard this cursed earth with all its sinful lusts and choose to make a radical turn back to the Gospel and to the heavenly vision of our God. Blandina did not resist that call. She possessed the kind of faith that astounded the watching world. With a light in her eyes and a smile on her face, she embraced torture and death with open arms. It was a small offering when considering the debt Jesus Himself paid on her behalf. That kind of passionate love is what we have lost in our reckless attempt to live the Christian life under our own terms. True living is found nowhere other than in the passion of following and serving our Savior with complete and total abandon.