I have been reading the ante-nicene fathers lately, and while reading I came upon a fellow who has some pretty intense words for the Ephesians to read:
"For it is not my desire to act towards you as a man-pleaser, but as pleasing God, even as also ye please Him. For neither shall I ever have such [another] opportunity of attaining to God; nor will ye, if ye shall now be silent, ever be entitled to the honour of a better work. For if ye are silent concerning me, I shall become God’s; but if you show your love to my flesh, I shall again have to run my race. Pray, then, do not seek to confer any greater favour upon me than that I be sacrificed to God while the altar is still prepared; that, being gathered together in love, ye may sing praise to the Father, through Christ Jesus, that God has deemed me, the bishop of Syria, worthy to be sent for from the east unto the west. It is good to set from the world unto God, that I may rise again to Him."
"May I enjoy the wild beasts that are prepared for me; and I pray they may be found eager to rush upon me, which also I will entice to devour me speedily, and not deal with me as with some, whom, out of fear, they have not touched. But if they be unwilling to assail me, I will compel them to do so. Pardon me [in this]: I know what is for my benefit. Now I begin to be a disciple. And let no one, of things visible or invisible, envy me that I should attain to Jesus Christ. Let fire and the cross; let the crowds of wild beasts; let tearings, breakings, and dislocations of bones; let cutting off of members; let shatterings of the whole body; and let all the dreadful torments of the devil come upon me: only let me attain to Jesus Christ."
"All the pleasures of the world, and all the kingdoms of this earth, shall profit me nothing. It is better for me to die in behalf of Jesus Christ, than to reign over all the ends of the earth. “For what shall a man be profited, if he gain the whole world, but lose his own soul?” Him I seek, who died for us: Him I desire, who rose again for our sake. This is the gain which is laid up for me. Pardon me, brethren: do not hinder me from living, do not wish to keep me in a state of death; and while I desire to belong to God, do not ye give me over to the world. Suffer me to obtain pure light: when I have gone thither, I shall indeed be a man of God. Permit me to be an imitator of the passion of my God. If any one has Him within himself, let him consider what I desire, and let him have sympathy with me, as knowing how I am straitened."
"Do not speak of Jesus Christ, and yet set your desires on the world. Let not envy find a dwelling-place among you; nor even should I, when present with you, exhort you to it, be ye persuaded to listen to me, but rather give credit to those things which I now write to you. For though I am alive while I write to you, yet I am eager to die. My love has been crucified, and there is no fire in me desiring to be fed; but there is within me a water that liveth and speaketh, saying to me inwardly, Come to the Father. I have no delight in corruptible food, nor in the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, the heavenly bread, the bread of life, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became afterwards of the seed of David and Abraham; and I desire the drink of God, namely His blood, which is incorruptible love and eternal life."
Who was this man? His name was Ignatius and he lived from about A.D. 30 - 107, and there is a (possibly untrue) tradition that states that he was the young child that Jesus picked out of the crowd and placed before His apostles in Matthew 18:2. He was the bishop of Smyrna and he wrote several letters, and this excerpt from his letter to the Ephesians details quite nicely where his thoughts lie most of the time.
How can a man so long for death that he would compel wild beasts to devour him? He was so in love with the Father that he it was his only goal in life to become a martyr. Why? How can someone think that way?
Maybe he realized what this life is all about. That it is but a short stepping stone to eternity. He was utterly convinced in what he believed, and it drove him to near insanity: at least that's what most people today would call it. Imagine longing for death? Wanting to get eaten by wild beasts for the masses to enjoy?
Doesn't he know that God wants us to be happy and safe, and free from all forms of suffering? We're His children and he wants us to "have our best life now".
Boy, too bad Ignatius lived way back then and only had the apostles of Christ to learn from. Good thing we have "proper" theologians today who teach us what a Christian really ought to do and to think.
(Note: the preceding blog entry used an immense amount of verbal irony)