"One Year Bible" New Testament Passage (for Wed., Oct. 10, 2012)
1 Thessalonians 2:9-3:13
For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, I Thessalonians 2:14 (NKJV)
What does it mean to become an "imitator of the churches of God?" The cynic might say that there is little about the church we ought to imitate. But, I would say that he is looking in the wrong place. There is much historically that has taken place under the name of the Church that was anything but the true Church of Jesus Christ. There is also much historically that speaks to the highest levels of human courage, honor, love, and faith.
If we would look for those things that we might imitate, we will not have to look very far. While there surely have been bad days in history, there have also been glorious ones. Think but a moment of those who paid the dearest of prices for the sake of Christ. The Moravians come to mind. There is the story of two young men who were so sold out to God, they sold themselves into slavery. They had heard of a place that slave-traders owned and worked the land by the labor of the natives who lived there. These evil traders would not allow missionaries anywhere near their slaves. So these two young men sold themselves as lifetime slaves - to preach the gospel.
They boarded their ship and as it left the harbor the boys were still waving furiously to their loved ones on shore. It was recorded in history the words that one of them yelled across the water as the ship made its way out to sea. He called out:
“May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering!”
Years later, in another country, two other men stood ready to pay the price for their stand for the Gospel of Grace. During an era in which the Gospel of Jesus had been shrouded and distorted by the machinations of man's religion, they remained true to the truth. For that they stood to be burned at the stake. One man's name was Hugh Latimer and the other Nicholas Ridley. In his last words, Latimer turned to Ridley and said,
"Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out."
Their courage and faith inspire us today to follow in their example. Few of us will be called to pay such a price. The least we can do is be courageous for Jesus in our day. We ought to "imitate" their faith.
It was St. Tertullian, the early church leader and apologist, who first said, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." May the high examples of faith that are our heritage inspire each of us to live more fully for Jesus today.