Community Bible Church

“Standing Firm in Difficulty”

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” 2 Timothy 3:12

The Roman Empire was not always a very secure place to be a Christian. While the church grew and often thrived in
those early centuries, there were times of unparalleled persecution: Nero in AD 64, Decius in 249-251, Valerius in 257, and the last and perhaps worst of all, Diocletian in 303. It was in this time frame that the first martyr in Great Britain gave his life for the cause of Christ.
Alban was a soldier in Diocletian’s army on the outpost of what is now Hertfordshire, England. It was his duty to carry out the edit of Rome’s despotic ruler that all Christian’s were to give their homage to Caesar alone. Unclear as to the extenuating circumstances, Alban gave refuge to a Christian priest who was being pursued by the authorities, taking him into his home for shelter. It was there that Alban committed his life to Christ, impressed as he was by the priest’s faith and resolve.
According to Foxes’ Book of Martyrs, when the authorities arrived at Alban’s cottage to arrest the priest, unbeknownst to them a switch had taken place: Alban changed clothes with priest and assumed his identity. It wasn’t until Alban was standing before the Magistrate that Alban’s true identity was ascertained. Infuriated by this discovery, the Magistrate demanded to know Alban’s background and family history, to which Alban replied with a confident and resounding declaration of devotion and commitment to Christ and his church.
Though tortured and beaten, Alban refused to deny his new found faith or the location of the priest whom his identity he presumed. Realizing that Alban was unrelenting in his determination, the Magistrate ordered him beheaded (am told that St. Alban’s Cathedral stands on the very site of that execution). Alban was the first martyr in England. The second was the executioner, who become a Christian after hearing of Alban’s faith in Christ and refused to carry out the execution orders. The third followed close at hand: the priest had turned himself in with the hopes of preventing Alban’s death. (You can read the complete story in Foxes’ Book of Martyrs, pp. 65-66).
Fast forward to our day: a Salesician priest by the name of Father Tom was captured by ISIS from a mission in Yemen. Over the course of the last few weeks he has been beaten and tortured similar to Alban. Of this writing Fr. Tom is to be executed on Good Friday, ionically, by means of crucifixion, because of his testimony of Christ and his commitment to the church. Only the names have changed; the persecution lives on.
We in the West have been isolated and insulated from such pressures and experiences. We see them from afar, through the smoke of dream-like shadows. Paul wrote before his own imminent execution to his young protégé Timothy—“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” It is a forgone conclusion of life in the Kingdom. Jesus had already given us that insight, that if the world had hated him we will be hated by the world as well. In the midst of this reality, then, pray for Fr. Tom; and look to posture yourself in a manner that assumes the reality of life on this planet—stand firm in difficulty.

Blessings on the journey,