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I returned today from three-and-a-half days recovering from cervical surgery. I am grateful that the surgeon, Dr. Gruber, took me on as an urgent case in this time of forbidden elective surgeries. According to him and his team, I was one fall away from becoming a paraplegic. Although at first I struggled with the chronology of the events that led to the cascade of numbness in my hands, arms, feet, and legs, it became clear that Laurie and I would not have traveled to Bangladesh with me in such a condition. Rough roads in rough vehicles contributed to an already existing issue.

God knows all things.

All things according to His will.

Were a wheelchair to be His choice for me, I would have been sorely in need of the letter below, which a Church father, Cyprian, wrote to martyrs who had been sent to the mines for punishment during Roman persecution. Cyprian himself, after having been a Christian for only twelve years, was beheaded by the Romans around 218 A.D. Although the miners were not murdered, it is not difficult to speculate what they endured from breathing dust, smoke from torches and lamps, starvation diets, and unsafe work conditions.

I state the obvious when I write that both Christians and non-believers are suffering through a pandemic. However, suffering has always been the case for us. We are all constantly in need of an eternal perspective. We Christians in the West all too often steadfastly ignore the New Testament’s admonishments to suffer for Jesus’ sake, as in Philippians 1:29–30 and Acts 14:21–22, including, most importantly, Jesus’ requirement to be willing to die on a cross in order to be His disciple in Luke 14:25-35. We ignore such passages while mistakenly interpreting Jesus’ promise for an abundant life as “your best life now.”

We are to honor those who now and throughout Church history have been willing to offer themselves in a self-denying, sacrificial way.

I thank Dr. James White for reading Cyprian’s letter on his April 14, 2020, broadcast. As he said at the time, it is better to consider this truth now, when it is not yet upon us, than when it is. Below is only the second section of Cyprian’s letter. To read it in its entirety, including the miners’ response, follow the link to the footnote following.

“But that, being first severely beaten with clubs, and ill-used, you have begun by sufferings of that kind, the glorious firstlings of your confession, is not a matter to be execrated by us. For a Christian body is not very greatly terrified at clubs, seeing all its hope is in the Wood. The servant of Christ acknowledges the sacrament of his salvation: redeemed by wood to life eternal, he is advanced by wood to the crown. But what wonder if, as golden and silver vessels, you have been committed to the mine that is the home of gold and silver, except that now the nature of the mines is changed, and the places which previously had been accustomed to yield gold and silver have begun to receive them? Moreover, they have put fetters on your feet, and have bound your blessed limbs, and the temples of God with disgraceful chains, as if the spirit also could be bound with the body, or your gold could be stained by the contact of iron. To men who are dedicated to God, and attesting their faith with religious courage, such things are ornaments, not chains; nor do they bind the feet of the Christians for infamy but glorify them for a crown. Oh, feet blessedly bound, which are loosed, not by the smith but by the Lord! Oh, feet blessedly bound, which are guided to paradise in the way of salvation! Oh, feet bound for the present time in the world, that they may be always free with the Lord! Oh feet, lingering for a while among the fetters and cross-bars, but to run quickly to Christ on a glorious road! Let cruelty, either envious or malignant, hold you here in its bonds and chains as long as it will, from this earth and from these sufferings you shall speedily come to the kingdom of heaven. The body is not cherished in the mines with couch and cushions, but it is cherished with the refreshment and solace of Christ. The frame wearied with labors lies prostrate on the ground, but it is no penalty to lie down with Christ. Your limbs unbathed, are foul and disfigured with filth and dirt; but within they are spiritually cleansed, although without the flesh is defiled. There the bread is scarce; but man lives not by bread alone, but by the word of God. Shivering, you want clothing; but he who puts on Christ is both abundantly clothed and adorned. The hair of your half-shorn head seems repulsive; but since Christ is the head of the man, anything whatever must needs become that head which is illustrious on account of Christ’s name. All that deformity, detestable and foul to Gentiles, with what splendor shall it be recompensed! This temporal and brief suffering, how shall it be exchanged for the reward of a bright and eternal honor, when, according to the word of the blessed apostle, “the Lord shall change the body of our humiliation, that it may be fashioned like to the body of His brightness!”2

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

2https://crossencountersmin.com/featured-article/cyprian-letter-mineworkers/

Gif courtesy Bing images.

 

 

 

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