As Christian woman, we need to guard our hearts. We guard our hearts against unrighteousness, injustice, and ungodliness. As we guard our hearts, we should expect opposition, Jesus of Nazareth calls us blessed when persecution comes, “Blessed [comforted by inner peace and God’s love] are those who are persecuted for doing that which is morally right, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever]” (Matthew 5:10, AMP). Digest this story of a slave girl during the early spreading of the Gospel.
~ Blandina – Slave Girl of Lyons A.D. 177 ~
“Christianity first came to Lyons in the early 2nd century when a missionary came to Gaul (modern-day France ) and established the church of Christ in Lyons and nearby Viennes. As the church grew, persecution against the Christians in Gaul began. They endured all kinds of shame and personal injuries including being forced out of their homes and businesses so that nothing belonging to them could appear in public. Mobs were formed to beat, stone and rob them. Adding fuel to the fire of persecution, unbelieving servants, fearing lest they should be taken along with their masters, sought to protect themselves by charging their Christian masters with gross crimes such as cannibalism, incest, and other shameful practices.
When believers were arrested they courageously confessed their allegiance to Christ and then they were imprisoned and ultimately martyred for their faith. A slave girl named Blandina was one who perished during this terrible religious persecution under the emperor Marcus Aurelius.
The Christians were restrained in the worst part of the prison, in dark and cramped spaces, and many of them suffocated there. Some were placed in stocks; others were placed in a hot-iron seat where their flesh was burned. After enduring torture, forty-eight Christians were taken to the amphitheater to ‘entertain’ the crowd during a Roman holiday by being thrown to wild beasts.
Blandina was one of them. Though she had already endured numerous tortures and treated with inhumane brutality, she was then suspended on a stake and to taunt the wild beasts. Though it was intended to terrorize her fellow Christians, her torture inspired them for when they looked at her on that stake it reminded them of Christ on the cross, who was crucified for them and that everyone who suffered for Him would enjoy eternal life with God. Amazingly, none of the beasts attacked her so she was taken down from the stake and cast into prison again.
According to the description of her death by the Christian History Institute (http://www.gospelcom.net/chi/), Blandina face death heroically:
‘On the last day of the contests in the amphitheater, Blandina was again brought in with Ponticus, a boy of about 15. Every day they had been brought to witness the sufferings of others and pressed to deny their faith and swear by idols. Ponticus died first, and Blandina remained the last. She had encouraged many others and saw them go on before her to Jesus. Now she was ready to hasten after them. She faced her death rejoicing-as if being called to a marriage feast rather than wild beasts. The report stated: After the scourging, after the wild beasts, after the roasting seat, she was finally enclosed in a net, and thrown before a bull. And having been tossed about by the animal, but feeling none of the things which were happening to her, on account of her hope and firm hold upon what had been entrusted to her, and her communion with Christ, she also was sacrificed. After the bodies of the witnesses were exposed for six days, they were burned to ashes and thrown into the Rhone river. The bodies of those who had suffocated in prison were thrown to the dogs, and guards were stationed to prevent the remaining Christians from burying them. The pagans hoped to prevent even the hope of resurrection for the Christians.’
An ancient letter that recorded the persecution in Lyons was included in the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius and stated: ‘While we were all trembling, and her earthly mistress, who was herself one of the contending martyrs, was apprehensive, lest, through the weakness of the flesh, she should not be able to make a bold confession, Blandina was filled with such power, that her ingenious tormentors, who relieved and succeeded each other from morning till night, confessed that they were overcome and had nothing more that they could inflict upon her. They were amazed that she continued to breathe after her whole body was pierced and torn asunder. In the midst of her sufferings, as she for a moment revived, she repeatedly exclaimed, “I am a Christian; no wickedness is carried on by us!” ’
Blandina honored her God by her faithfulness and courage in the face of danger and ultimately death. She and her contemporaries are memorialized by a marker at the place of their martyrdom in the ancient amphitheater. You can visit this marker in Lyons, France today”1
I cannot imagine witnessing this spectacle. I cannot imagine what she must have been feeling and praying. And I cannot imagine dying a horrific death such as she endured. As we read through the Beatitudes, this blessing from our Lord is difficult to swallow. Although many have and still do suffer and are persecuted physically for their love of Christ, this Beatitude may focus on a different form of persecution.
In Matthew 5:10, the word persecution bears the understanding of pursue or chase; a better translation is harass. If we replace the words in the sermon, it could read, “Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and all kinds of evil against you falsely.” Casting insults literally translates – to cast in one’s teeth. So the idea here is of throwing insults in a person’s face: verbal harassments, whispers, innuendos, suspensions, slander.2
Charles Spurgeon, a nineteenth century preacher, was suffering a difficult time when he was criticized harshly. In precious wife, Susannah, printed the eight Beatitudes on a sheet of paper in large print. She placed the paper on the ceiling above their bed so Charles would be able to read and see Christ’s words every evening and every morning. He was persecuted for righteousness.
Christian woman have faced verbal and physical persecution since Christ’s death. Christian woman are held to a standard the world is not: moral values, purity, faith, love, righteousness, and self-control. The world does not like when believers choose the narrow gate over their wide expanse of individuality.
When Christian women dress modestly, we are called prudes. When Christian women choose purity, we are called goody two-shoes. When Christian women choose to monitor their intake of technology such as with pornography, violent movies, horror movies, or glamorous fashion, we are called bores. When Christian woman dedicate their lives to serve their families and husbands, we are called antiquated. When Christian women stand on the Word of God, we are called bigots. When Christian women dedicate their gifts, time, and service to the Lord, we are called fools. When Christian woman use their intellect and talent in the work force, we are stifled for our faith. When Christian women quote the Word of God, we are mocked. Yes, many have felt the sting and have been the recipient of persecution and harassment. My only consolation is Jesus Christ suffered the same.
“For [as a believer] you have been called for this purpose, since Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you may follow in His footsteps. He committed no sin, nor was deceit ever found in His mouth. While being reviled and insulted, He did not revile or insult in return; while suffering, He made no threats [of vengeance], but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges fairly. He personally carried our sins in His body on the cross [willingly offering Himself on it, as on an altar of sacrifice], so that we might die to sin [becoming immune from the penalty and power of sin] and live for righteousness; for by His wounds you [who believe] have been healed” (1 Peter 2:21-24).
“Finally, all of you be like-minded [united in spirit], sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted [courteous and compassionate toward each other as members of one household], and humble in spirit; and never return evil for evil or insult for insult [avoid scolding, berating, and any kind of abuse], but on the contrary, give a blessing [pray for one another’s well-being, contentment, and protection]; for you have been called for this very purpose, that you might inherit a blessing [from God that brings well-being, happiness, and protection]. For, ‘The one who wants to enjoy life and see good days [good—whether apparent or not], Must keep his tongue free from evil and his lips from speaking guile (treachery, deceit). He must turn away from wickedness and do what is right. He must search for peace [with God, with self, with others] and pursue it eagerly [actively—not merely desiring it]. For the eyes of the Lord are [looking favorably] upon the righteous (the upright), And His ears are attentive to their prayer (eager to answer), but the face of the Lord is against those who practice evil.’
Now who is there to hurt you if you become enthusiastic for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness [though it is not certain that you will], you are still blessed [happy, to be admired and favored by God]. Do not be afraid of their intimidating threats, nor be troubled or disturbed [by their opposition]. But in your hearts set Christ apart [as holy—acknowledging Him, giving Him first place in your lives] as Lord.
Always be ready to give a [logical] defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope and confident assurance [elicited by faith] that is within you, yet [do it] with gentleness and respect. And see to it that your conscience is entirely clear, so that every time you are slandered or falsely accused, those who attack or disparage your good behavior in Christ will be shamed [by their own words]. For it is better that you suffer [unjustly] for doing what is right, if that should be God’s will, than [to suffer justly] for doing wrong.
Remember Christian woman, you are blessed with opposition comes. Experience great joy in your heart, for great is your reward in heaven, “Blessed [comforted by inner peace and God’s love] are those who are persecuted for doing that which is morally right, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever]” (Matthew 5:10, AMP).
Picture from: http://bibleseo.com/matthew/persecuted -righteousness-beatitudes-bible-study-series-part-8-8/