The times are becoming more dangerous for Christians everywhere. Yet, rather than seeking safety from persecution, we are told to be a light so that others, including enemies of the Gospel, will draw near to Christ. The more we know Him, the closer we remain to Him, the stronger our light of faith and love will be.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
Defending our faith
After Christ’s death and resurrection, Rome proclaimed it a crime punishable by death to be a Christian. New Christians met in secret and their forms of worship caused such false rumors as cannibalism. Consequently, educated Christians wrote letters in defense of their faith.
Mark Minucius Felix, a Roman lawyer and orthodox Christian, wrote an inspiring account of a debate between Octavius (a Christian) and a pagan. The pagan’s challenges are the same ones the Christian church faces today.
Regarding the worship of gods such as the sun, moon, and stars, Octavius debated: “Man is different from the wild beasts … who are always looking down at the earth … for their food. But man stands erect. His face is turned toward heaven. For this reason, we recognize, feel, and imitate God. No person has the right to be ignorant of the celestial glory that’s imprinted on our eyes and senses. It’s wrong to seek on earth what can only be found on high.”
In defense of God as Creator, Octavius quoted Romans 1:20: “For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
Octavius also cited God’s perfect order of creation—the sun’s circuit, the moon’s phases, the seasons, the differences in animals, and “the very beauty of our own bodies”—demonstrating that God is our designer.
Octavius continued the debate by defending Christians. They didn’t kill humans, nor did they abort babies, a common practice among Romans in their god-sacrifices. Octavius urged the pagan to take an honest look at his religious rituals as “pitiful and laughable.” He challenged the pagan to use common sense, rather than blindly following the traditions of his ancestors, so he could see that man-made gods had no power, no life, no real beauty.
“You must KNOW God before you can WORSHIP him,” Octavius said, quoting Jesus in John 17:3. “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
Because of Octavius’ articulate and passionate defense, the pagan ended up embracing the Christian faith.
Lord, prepare us to defend our faith whenever we are challenged by unbelievers. Help us know you better—through dedicated and intentional meditation, study, and prayer—so we will “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks (us) to give the reason for the hope that (we) have.” (1 Peter 3:15) In Jesus’ name, amen.