“Eighty and six years have I served him, and he hath done me no wrong; how then can I blaspheme my King who saved me?
Thou threatenest the fire that burns for an hour and in a little while is quenched; for thou knowest not of the fire of the judgement to come, and the fire of the eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly. But why delayest thou? Bring what thou wilt.”
These words were spoken by Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, who was one of the foremost leaders of the Church in the second century. He studied under the Apostle John and, with Ignatius of Antioch, was one of the vital links between the apostolic and patristic periods. A strong defender of orthodoxy, he opposed such heretical groups as the Marcionites and the Valentinians. When Ignatius was being taken to Rome to be put to death, he wrote of Polycarp being clothed “with the garment of grace.” Polycarp was himself arrested by Roman officials in Smyrna soon after returning from a trip to Rome to discuss the date for Easter and was martyred.
His defense against the Roman proconsul contained a clear and courageous witness to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Instead of fearing “those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul,” Polycarp feared God “who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28 ). Polycarp’s gospel courage sprang from his gospel clarity.
May I suggest that this is the evangelical moment? When worldly ideologies which disregard the rule of Christ emerge before our eyes, we find ourselves faced with the same opportunity as Polycarp. Will we bow the knee before the principalities and powers of this world, or will we stand for the King who has saved us? God, please help us.