Could we be reliving the days of Polycarp?
Polycarp, 69-155 A.D., was the Bishop of Smyrna. The church there almost certainly originated from the Apostle Paul’s mission in that area as recorded in Acts 19:10. Polycarp had contact with the Apostles, but it was John whom he knew and loved best. Polycarp was also a farmer, making him one of Christianity’s earliest bi-vocational ministers.
He lived during a dangerous age for Christians. Paganism was prevalent and Christians were hated by Jews and Gentiles alike. Smyrna was also a key government center where the powerful state/cult was supreme. Even the emperor was addressed as “lord.”
For more than 50 years, Polycarp courageously preached against the heresies that inundated the churches of that day. He also stood against the government and its oppression and pagan proclivities. An outbreak of severe persecution caused Polycarp to take refuge on his farm. A servant was forced under torture to reveal Polycarp’s whereabouts, enabling a large armed force to raid his farm. Upon their arrival they found the elderly Polycarp in his bed. He arose, not in anger but in peace by offering them food and drink. The authorities allowed him to spend two hours in prayer before arresting him.
Prior to his “trial,” some urged Polycarp not to be too dogmatic in affirming his faith because pagans were threatening him with bodily harm if he did. Neither persuaded Polycarp as he stood before the governor and an angry mob screaming for his blood. The governor urged him to denounce his fellow Christians by proclaiming “down with the infidels,” but he refused and instead turned his face to the mob, pointed to them and yelled “down with the infidels.” The governor urged Polycarp to take the name of Christ in vain, but he refused, saying, “Eighty and six years have I served Him and He has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?”
The governor realized it was futile to dissuade Polycarp and ordered him burned at the stake. Polycarp replied that the only fire to fear was that in Hell. The mob seized him, tied him to a stake and set him ablaze.
Polycarp came to my mind as I watched the recent Academy Awards. It has been said if one wants to know the direction society is headed, look at the arts (movies, paintings, architecture and literature) for a clue. I watched in hopes that Hollywood might retreat from its usual debauchery and mockery of any pro-life, pro-family views. I should have known better.
The Academy bestowed the “best actress” award to a woman who spent as much time out of her clothes before the camera as she did in them. They presented “best actor” award to a man who played a homosexual activist. In his acceptance diatribe, actor Sean Penn alluded to the “hate” that those of us who oppose homosexual marriage supposedly have for homosexuals. He cannot – or refuses to – see the obvious sin in such a lifestyle and confuses “hating the sin” with “hating the sinner.”
Penn’s views are no doubt similar to the same pagan views that Polycarp opposed. Penn would be easy to dismiss if he were simply part of a small minority, but polls indicate a greater acceptance of homosexuality by Americans. Efforts are likely to intensify to get “hate crimes” legislation passed in Congress, the one law that could open the door for persecution against anyone who speaks against homosexuality – even from the pulpit. President Obama has made it clear that he will press for homosexual rights. The radical left, now in control of Congress, will back him to the hilt.
Obama professes to be a Christian, yet his anti-life and anti-family policies contradict Scripture. I was surprised that he did not use a Bible when it was felt necessary for him to retake the Presidential Oath after it was botched at the inauguration. I am still troubled by his relationship with his former controversial pastor, Jeremiah Wright. What bothers me is he – and his family – sat under Wright’s hateful heresies for 20 years, yet he did not feel it necessary to sever his relationship with Wright until it became a sizzling political liability.
Indeed there is considerable evidence that the federal government – with Obama at the helm – is about to usher in a new era of pagan laws and perhaps, a season of persecution against conservative, Bible-believing evangelicals. I do not mean to cry “wolf,” but recent actions out of Washington suggest that America is sinking to a new level of degradation – one that could ultimately bring persecution against Christians who oppose it.
Consider the following:
• Obama and liberal Democrats in Congress appear interested in re-implementing the so-called “Fairness Doctrine.” Repealed by President Ronald Reagan in 1987, the Fairness Doctrine required TV and radio broadcasters to give equal time to both sides of a controversial issue. In repealing the rule, the Federal Communications Commission said at the time that instead of encouraging stations to present both sides of issues, the Fairness Doctrine had led those stations to avoid controversial issues altogether.
If re-instituted, the Fairness Doctrine will likely target Christian talk radio since much of its content involves cultural issues such as homosexuality, cloning and abortion. The end result will be that Christian talk radio will be silenced – and with it “The Gospel” on the airwaves and television.
• Obama and the liberal Democrats are going to cram the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) down our throats. FOCA will overturn all restrictions on abortion and abortion funding at all government levels.
Catholic hospitals are already weighing the option of civil disobedience if FOCA becomes law. Robert Lynch, bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Petersburg, Fla., said Catholic hospitals will not comply if FOCA passes. A dramatic showdown between church and state seems inevitable. Will we be silent?
Catholics and all of us who are pro-life already feel pressure because tax dollars are now going to fund abortions overseas. Such is the result of Obama rescinding the Mexico City Policy, which banned federal funds for organizations that perform or promote abortions overseas. Ironically, many of the nations – where such organizations exist – oppose abortions. It seems as if Obama is more concerned with what nations think about our treatment of blood-thirsty terrorists at Guantanomo Bay than how nations view America when it comes to protecting innocent life. What kind of message is Obama sending to the world?
• The so-called economic stimulus bill discriminates against religious faith on college campuses. About $3.5 billion of the bill is earmarked for renovation of university and college facilities, but bars buildings from being used for religious worship or instruction. This means no more Bible studies or worship meetings by Christians and other religious student groups in facilities that have been repaired or modernized with money from the bill.
• Obama’s appointments to the Justice Department and future ones to the Supreme Court are sure to press these immoral policies through changes in the law and ultimately prosecutions. Obama’s nomination of David Ogden to the Department of Justice, should trouble Americans. His previous legal representation of pornographers and opposition to some child porn laws make him unfit.
• Also included in the so-called economic stimulus bill is a move toward rationed health care. There are some who fear that this will lead to government controlled health care as well, one that will evaluate medical treatments and drugs based on their comparative effectiveness as opposed to their clinical effectiveness. Could it be that one day the government will tell you and me that it is not cost effective to keep our 90-year-old parents alive another year, that such money should be diverted to helping children in need of care? Government – not families, doctors or much less God – will decide who lives and who dies.
We need to pray for Obama and Congress, asking God to lead them to reverse the path they are taking our nation. Should God not be inclined to do so, could it be He is about to “purify” His Church by allowing a season of persecution? Separate “the wheat from the chaff?” We cry for revival, but God calls us to holiness and a life of faithfulness to Him. If the current trend continues and persecution comes, will we be like Polycarp?