Saturday, March 23, 2013

Ignatius to the Romans - Please be on my side

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 was old and the love of Christ filled his life. There was nothing left of this world that he desired.
"All the pleasures of the world, and all the kingdoms of this earth, shall profit me nothing. It is better for me to die in behalf of Jesus Christ, than to reign over all the ends of the earth. 'For what shall a man be profited, if he gain the whole world, but lose his own soul?' Him I seek, who died for us: Him I desire, who rose again for our sake. This is the gain which is laid up for me." (Ignatius to the Romans, Chapter 6)
Ignatius only saw the gain; the gain of leaving this earth and coming face-to-face with his Lord. When faced with difficult choices, how often is our internal conflict the result of us still finding benefit in this life? How much of our struggle is against the remaining desire to "gain the world." If we could be free from this world and the lures it has on our hearts then we would truly be free. Then, like Ignatius, we would be ready to die whenever the Lord calls us home. Not that we long for death, but that we would be ready for death and thus, ready for life.

Ignatius again pleads that the believers in Rome would not hinder his course or his calling in God.
"Pardon me, brethren: do not hinder me from living, do not wish to keep me in a state of death; and while I desire to belong to God, do not ye give me over to the world. Suffer me to obtain pure light: when I have gone thither, I shall indeed be a man of God. Permit me to be an imitator of the passion of my God. If any one has Him within himself, let him consider what I desire, and let him have sympathy with me, as knowing how I am straitened." (Ignatius to the Romans, Chapter 6)
Ignatius understood that true life was in the life after this one; that life on earth was a temporary life and a life filled with death, but living was to be truly found in heaven with Christ; true life is a life of eternity. Ignatius' desire is that the brethren would let him pass over from this life unto the next and not restore him again "to the world." If they truly loved him they would rejoice with him and let him go. "If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father." (John 14:28)

Ignatius ask them to be on his side, not to do the devil's bidding of trying to dissuade him from his course.
"The prince of this world would fain carry me away, and corrupt my disposition towards God. Let none of you, therefore, who are [in Rome] help him; rather be ye on my side, that is, on the side of God. Do not speak of Jesus Christ, and yet set your desires on the world. Let not envy find a dwelling-place among you; nor even should I, when present with you, exhort you to it, be ye persuaded to listen to me, but rather give credit to those things which I now write to you. For though I am alive while I write to you, yet I am eager to die. My love has been crucified, and there is no fire in me desiring to be fed; but there is within me a water that liveth and speaketh, saying to me inwardly, Come to the Father. I have no delight in corruptible food, nor in the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, the heavenly bread, the bread of life, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became afterwards of the seed of David and Abraham; and I desire the drink of God, namely His blood, which is incorruptible love and eternal life." (Ignatius to the Romans, Chapter 7)
How can you threaten a man who is ready to die? How can you tempt him for whom the world had no value? How can you imprison one who is free in his Lord? Ignatius was a man who was free, secure, and full of joy. I hope that when the end of my life comes I will be as free, secure, and joyful as he was.

David Robison

1 comment:

  1. I like your comment, "Then, like Ignatius, we would be ready to die whenever the Lord calls us home. Not that we long for death, but that we would be ready for death and thus, ready for life."

    I am not afraid of death, and I do anticipate the resurrected life. But, as you say, I do not LONG for death. Ingatius' courage in the face of his coming violent death is heroic. He inspires me, as he has many millions of people throughout the last two thousand years.

    He was indeed a hero, but heroes become models, and often those who follow their heroes exaggerate some aspect of the model. I believe this happened with Ignatius. Those inspired by his, and others, heroic attitudes in the face of death came to glorify martyrdom, so that they sought it out.

    This is unfortunate.

    Being willing to die for the faith does not mean seeking death. There is merit in living for the faith as well. I suggest that Ignatius would agree.

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