A random thought expressed by someone else can sometimes stick in your mind, creating a well-placed image that sums up a life. A colleague was trying to explain the essence of why those of us who work in our corner of God’s field are still showing up and punching the clock. “We’re still here,” he said. I think most others in the room, including he who spoke, did not pay it much mind. I did.
I am still here. Working at preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God. No matter where I am, I clock in each day and work. It is more than a job. It is a calling. It is a life’s work. In a short time I will gather in a room with fellow believers and take part in a ceremony to remember the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. It is called the Passover. I will also observe the biblical festival called the Days of Unleavened Bread. Taken together these create a season to reflect on the grace of God.
One of the things I always do at this time of year is read an old story about people who clung to God’s teaching on this subject when many around them were casting it off like a worn shoe. One man summed up why he and others “were still here.”
The story is preserved in history. In the second century after Christ, the Christian faith was changing into something the original apostles would not recognize. The false teachers began to introduce false teaching about Christ’s death and resurrection. Some churches were beginning to keep an Easter tradition borrowed from pagan myth instead of the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread.
The controversy became so intense that some ministers were taking action to dismiss, or excommunicate, others who would not get with the times and begin keeping this new “truth” or teaching about Easter.
At one point a bishop named Victor living in Rome and teaching Easter got so bold as to put out of the church another minister named Polycrates who, with other ministers and members, was holding to “the faith once delivered”—the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread. Polycrates gave one of the most spirited and inspiring defenses of truth ever recorded.
Polycrates wrote, “We, therefore, observe the genuine day; neither adding thereto nor taking there from. For in Asia great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again the day of the Lord’s appearing, in which he will come with glory from heaven, and will raise up all the saints …”
He was talking about the first century church, who first received the truth and kept it. They died in the faith and awaited the resurrection of the just. Among those he mentioned was the apostle John and other early men and women. He went on to say
“All these observed the fourteenth day of the Passover according to the gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. Moreover, I, Polycrates, who am the least of all of you, according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have followed. For there were seven, my relatives [who were] bishops, and I am the eighth; and my relatives always observed the day when the people (i.e., the Jews) threw away the leaven”.
“I, therefore, brethren, am now sixty-five years in the Lord, who having conferred with the brethren throughout the world, and having studied the whole of the sacred Scriptures, am not at all alarmed at those things with which I am threatened, to intimidate me. For they who are greater than I, have said, ‘we ought to obey God rather than men”. (Eusebius, The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine, translated by G.A Williamson, New York University Press, 1966, p. 231)
Polycrates would not abandon what he knew to be Biblical truth. He and others “were still here”—faithfully keeping what Christ put into His church.
This week I am still here. Along with many others a living witness to faith and truth. How about you? Is it time you ask yourself where you are in relationship to God?