Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ignatius to the Romans - I'm coming, hinder me not

This is a continuation of my series on Ignatius and the seven letters he wrote while on his way to be martyred in Rome. If you are unfamiliar with Ignatius, you may want to start with the introduction to this series.

Ignatius is on his way and writes in anxious hope of seeing the believers in Rome.
"Through prayer to God I have obtained the privilege of seeing your most worthy faces, and have even been granted more than I requested; for I hope as a prisoner in Christ Jesus to salute you, if indeed it be the will of God that I be thought worthy of attaining unto the end." (Ignatius to the Romans, Chapter 1)
However, amidst his desire to see his fellow believers in Rome, he also has a fear.
"For the beginning has been well ordered, if I may obtain grace to cling to my lot without hindrance unto the end. For I am afraid of your love, lest it should do me an injury. For it is easy for you to accomplish what you please; but it is difficult for me to attain to God, if ye spare me." (Ignatius to the Romans, Chapter 1)
Ignatius believed that his path in God was to end with the lions in Rome. He had accepted it and saw his pilgrimage to Rome, and to death, as his being discipled into the life of his savior who was also killed for the sake of the Kingdom. His journey had begun well, but now he was facing the end. His fear was that, somehow, his brethren in Rome might seek to intervene in his martyrdom and even try to secure his release. It was not uncommon for the families and loved ones of those sentenced to death to seek their release with bribes. Even Christians were know to offer bribes and payments for the release of Christians condemned to death. Ignatius knew this and wanted to avoid it, so he write to the Christians in Rome asking them to refrain from interfering with his calling in God. Ignatius knew that the believers in Rome loved him and desired him to be spared, but he was not coming to please them, but God.
"For it is not my desire to act towards you as a man-pleaser, but as pleasing God, even as also ye please Him. For neither shall I ever have such [another] opportunity of attaining to God; nor will ye, if ye shall now be silent, ever be entitled to the honour of a better work." (Ignatius to the Romans, Chapter 2)
To die for the sake of Christ was an honor and a testimony to the world and to the church, yet he could only attain to this honor if they remained silent. Ignatius knew they loved him, but he asks them to love his spirit more than they loved his flesh.
"For if ye are silent concerning me, I shall become God’s; but if you show your love to my flesh, I shall again have to run my race. Pray, then, do not seek to confer any greater favour upon me than that I be sacrificed to God while the altar is still prepared; that, being gathered together in love, ye may sing praise to the Father, through Christ Jesus, that God has deemed me, the bishop of Syria, worthy to be sent for from the east unto the west. It is good to set from the world unto God, that I may rise again to Him." (Ignatius to the Romans, Chapter 2)
Ignatius was called by God to be a martyr for his faith and for the glory and honor of God; he knew this. If the Roman believers interfered, it would only delay the inevitable; he would still, at a latter time, have to face death. He was ready and willing now, but who knows what the future would bring. He wanted to accomplish his task without the burden of having to do it all over again. Instead of interfering  he ask them to come together in worship and to offer thanks to God for the grace and honor He has shown their brother from Syria and to pray for his continued strength and resolve. Him message to the Romans was, "I am coming, hinder me not!"

David Robison

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