How NOT to Take the Lord’s Name in Vain

In the grey and cloudy world we traverse in today’s society, sometimes it is easy to get lost.  We take so many things for granted!  We take our freedom and fashion it as a rope to tether us to the world we live in.  At times we are unmindful of the grace that we live in…the fast pace of the world’s rhythm is out of synch with the peaceful and beautiful rhythm of God’s footsteps in our lives.  He is forever faithful; but we rarely let go of our hearts completely.  We still feel entitled to our lives, as if we have to fit Him into our lives instead of us fitting ourselves into His.  We fashion our Almighty God into our own image, instead of contemplating His image and how we are actually created in the Image of the God of the universe.  I present to you a story…a true story.  Reading this again literally breaks my heart; I could hardly stand after being confronted with the magnitude of this testimony once again.  The following is an excerpt from a book I am studying.  I apologize that it is not of my own creation, but I am not ready for thoughts on the matter…not ones that can be expressed anyway…please enjoy, or at least survive this gift…

The Testimony of Perpetua

The story of Perpetua’s martyrdom, perhaps the most famous of all early martyr stories, illustrates how firmly Christians resisted the encroachment of Roman culture.  In the early third century the emperor Septimius Severus established a policy that disallowed conversions to Christianity.  Soon a severe persecution broke out in Carthage, North Africa.  Vibia Perpetua (A.D. 181-203), young, married and mother to a newborn, was arrested with several others (including her brothers and a servant) and thrown into prison.  She was probably singled out because she came from a prominent family, which made her conversion more public and her faith more threatening.

Shortly after her imprisonment Perpetua learned in a vision that she was soon to die.  In the vision she saw a ladder reaching to heaven.  She had to climb it, which she did with ease, in spite of the dragon guarding it.  When she arrived at the summit she saw an immense garden; in the center sat a tall, gray-haired man dressed like a shepherd, surrounded by thousands of people dressed in white robes.  He said to her, “Welcome, my child.”  Then he invited her to approach and gave her a morsel of cheese, which tasted sweet to her.  When she awoke she described the vision to her brother.  “We realized that we would have to suffer, and that from now on we would no longer have hope in this life.”

Court hearings followed; family passions flared.  Her father kept pleading with her.  “Do not abandon me to be the reproach of men.  Think of your brothers, think of your mother and your aunt, think of your child, who will not be able to live once you are gone.  Give up your pride!  You will destroy all of us!”  Others urged her to sacrifice to the emperor and gods.  “Perform the sacrifice—have pity on your baby!”  But Perpetua would not yield.  “I am a Christian,” she kept repeating.  Finally the governor condemned her to the beasts.  Far from being enraged or terrified, Perpetua “returned to prison in high spirits.”  Again, people began to take notice.  One prison guard was so moved that he “began to show us great honor, realizing that we possessed some great power within us.”

Perpetua cared little about what she would lose, however severe the loss seemed to be.  Instead, she fixed her eyes on heaven, which she considered a greater reality than life in this world.  Just before her death she had a vision that reminded her of the victory that sure to be hers:  a man came to her prison door and escorted her to the arena.  She noticed that a huge crowd was watching her.  Then she saw a fierce Egyptian who was about to attack her.  Suddenly she became a great warrior ready to do combat with the enemy.  She started to fight the Egyptian, whom she defeated by stepping on his head.  The crowds shouted their approval, while a man clad in a purple robe said to her, “Peace be with you my daughter!”  “Then I woke up realizing that I would be contending not with wild animals but with the devil himself.  I knew, however, that I would win.”

The account makes clear that Perpetua was not a hero but a witness to Christ:

“The day of their victory dawned, and they marched from the prison to the amphitheatre joyfully as though they were going to heaven, with calm faces, trembling, if at all, with joy rather than fear.  Perpetua went along with shining countenance and calm step, as the beloved of God, as a wife of Christ, putting down everyone’s stare by her own intense gaze…Perpetua began to sing a psalm: she was already standing on the head of the Egyptian…Then when they came within sight of Hilarianus, they suggested by their motions and gestures: ‘You have condemned us, but God will condemn you’ was what they were saying.  At this the crowds became enraged and demanded that they be scourged before a line of gladiators.  And they rejoiced at this that they had obtained a share in the Lord’s sufferings…The others took the sword in silence and without moving, especially Saturnus, who being the first to climb the stairway was the first to die.  For once again he was waiting for Perpetua.  Perpetua, however, had yet to taste more pain.  She screamed as she was struck on the bone; then she took the trembling hand of the young gladiator and guided it to her throat.  It was as though so great a woman, feared as she was by the unclean spirit, could not be dispatched unless she herself were willing.” (The Acts of the Martyrs)

…Perpetua refused to yield, even to the pleas of her father, the cries of her baby, and the scorn of the crowds.  For the sake of Christ she happily submitted to death…Her courage and determination only reminded them that perhaps there was more to these Christians than meets the eye.  Could it be that what they believed was actually true?  If so, then the state itself would have to face competition that it had never had to face before…

We will never understand Christian spirituality—what it is and what makes it unique—unless we grasp the significance of martyrdom.  The early Christians died because they confessed Jesus Christ as Lord.  His lordship challenged all other ultimate claims on their lives—wealth, status, power, and Rome itself.  They believed that Jesus tolerates no rivals.  When forced to choose, they chose to follow Jesus, no matter what the cost.  The early martyrs paid an extreme price, their very lives.  But the value of their example is not in the martyrdom itself, however noble and courageous, but in their commitment to Christ’ lordship.  That we might not have to die for Christ is irrelevant.  How we live for Christ is the real issue.  (Excerpts from Water from a Deep Well by Gerald L. Sittser)

Unbelievable truth, don’t you think?  May God bless you today, and maybe sometime during the day you will have a chance to proclaim to someone else that Jesus Christ is Lord!

Peace by with you,

Gideon

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2 thoughts on “How NOT to Take the Lord’s Name in Vain

  1. Pingback: Ten Commandments: What’s In A Name? « lbtk

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