Sunday, September 17, 2006

A thought for the day:
Something from Lactantius (c. 304-313 A.D.)

Religion is not to be defended by putting to death, but by dying. Not by cruelty, but by patient endurance. Not by guilt, but by good faith. For the former belongs to evil, the latter to the good. . . .For if you wish to defend religion by bloodshed, tortures, and guilt, it will no longer be defended. Rather, it will be polluted and profaned. For nothing is so much a matter of free will as religion. If the mind of the worshiper is disinclined to it, religion is at once taken away and ceases to exist. . . .

We (Christians), on the contrary, do not require that anyone should be compelled to worship our God, whether he is willing or unwilling.

Nor do we become angry if anyone does not worship Him. We trust in the majesty of Him who has the power to avenge contempt shown towards Him.

We leave vengeance to God. We do not act as those persons who would have it appear that they are defenders of their gods, who rage without restraint against those who do not worship them.


Matthew the Curmudgeon said...

Talk about humbling!
If Lactantius can say this after all the persecutions believers went through where does that leave us?
This is something to deeply consider and I for one don't like where it might lead me. God forgive me!

Rev. Dr. Hassert said...

I think it is something to pray about and think deeply on. We must ask ourselves as well whether we would do violence to "defend our faith" or force others into the Christian fold. Do we preach in love or do we rage and froth in hate?

How can anyone come to God when a sword is upon their neck? In the past Christians have sinned in this regard and have gone against the Gospel. However, we can rightly say that those Christians were not justified by recourse to the Scriptures nor the Fathers.

This does not mean that we do not have an obligation to pray for "the punishment of wickness and vice," for if nations and rulers did not do this they would not be acting justly, for they "do not take up the sword in vain." Those who murder should be punished, as should those who steal. If we see an innocent about to be slaughtered, is it Christian to stand back and praise the virtues of peace while the innocent blood is shed?

However, the sword cannot be taken up to spread the message of Christ, for when it is true faith ceases to exist.

J. Gordon Anderson said...

That is a great painting by Jean Leon Gerome. I had the priviledge of seeing it in person many times, as it is in the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.