“FEAR NOT, FOR i AM WITH YOU.”
Cyprian, a third-century martyr, writes to his friend, Donatus.
This is a cheerful world as I see it from my garden under the shadows of my vines.
But If I were to ascend some high mountain and look over the wide lands, you know very well
what I would see: brigands on the highways, pirates on the sea, armies fighting, cities burning;
in the amphitheaters men murdered to please the applauding crowds; selfishness and cruelty
and misery and despair under all roofs. It is a bad world, Donatus, an incredibly bad world.
But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret.
They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world.
These people, Donatus, are the Christians--and I am one of them.
Eighteen hundred years have passed. I wonder what Cyprian would write of this 21st century?
He would write of gangs on the highways and byways, of piracy on the high seas, and of armies still fighting on the same ground as in his day. He would despair over cities that burn with fire, protests, and hate. He would tell of murder and marauding that continue to entertain and amuse the masses. He would testify to the selfishness and cruelty that abound, and he would note the despair and hopelessness felt by so many.
But Cyprian would also be able to write of a body of Christ-followers who are still a distinct and holy group of people. These people, the Church, who are learning to love the lovely and the unlovely.
These followers of Christ are being taught the secret of being loved by an Almighty God, and therefore, they are able to rise above the constant barrage of despair. They, like he, serve a risen Savior who is in the world today. The troubling headlines of our day serve to remind us that, “God did not send his Son to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17)
The Lenten season is designed for the Church because you and I are still works in progress. Only by the grace of Christ at work in us will the vices evident in the world will be rendered powerless. Only as we kneel in ongoing surrender will we be the hopeful evidence of the Church that Cyprian recognized so long ago.
Remember that our RENEW weekend begins tonight at 6:30 PM. The Hilliard family will be leading us in worship and John Oswalt will begin teaching through the book of Romans. You will be blessed!