In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 2 Timothy 3:12
If stories inspire you, then this one is for you! Laurentius (or Laurence) was the chief deacon of the church in Rome who was martyred in the persecution of Valerian in the year A.D. 258. Here Leo the Great (c. A.D. 450) reflects on the kindness and most valuable example of marytrs in his sermon on the feast day that remembers Laurentius because “examples are stronger than words, and there is more teaching in practice than in precept.” Notice how greed motivated the persecutions and the price Laurentius paid for his generous example of care for the poor.
“Whilst the height of all virtues, dearly-beloved, and the fulness of all righteousness is born of that love, wherewith GOD and one’s neighbour is loved, surely in none is this love found more conspicuous and brighter than in the blessed martyrs; who are as near to our LORD Jesus, Who died for all men, in the imitation of His love, as in the likeness of their suffering.
For, although that love, wherewith the LORD has redeemed us, cannot be equalled by any man’s kindness, because it is one thing that a man who is doomed to die one day should die for a righteous man, and another that One Who is free from the debt of sin should lay down His life for the wicked: yet the martyrs also have done great service to all men, in that the LORD Who gave them boldness, has used it to show that the penalty of death and the pain of the cross need not be terrible to any of His followers, but might be imitated by many of them.
If therefore no good man is good for himself alone, and no wise man’s wisdom befriends himself only, and the nature of true virtue is such that it leads many away from the dark error on which its light is shed, no model is more useful in teaching GOD’S people than that of the martyrs. Eloquence may make intercession easy, reasoning may effectually persuade; but yet examples are stronger than words, and there is more teaching in practice than in precept.
And how gloriously strong in this most excellent manner of doctrine the blessed martyr Laurentius is, by whose sufferings today is marked, even his persecutors were able to feel, when they found that his wondrous courage, born principally of love for Christ, not only did not yield itself, but also strengthened others by the example of his endurance.
For when the fury of the gentile potentates was raging against Christ’s most chosen members, and attacked those especially who were of priestly rank, the wicked persecutor’s wrath was vented on Laurentius the deacon, who was preeminent not only in the performance of the sacred rites, but also in the management of the church’s property, promising himself double spoil from one man’s capture: for if he forced him to surrender the sacred treasures, he would also drive him out of the pale of true religion.
And so this man, so greedy of money and such a foe to the truth, arms himself with double weapon: with avarice to plunder the gold; with impiety to carry off Christ. He demands of the guileless guardian of the sanctuary that the church wealth on which his greedy mind was set should be brought to him. But the holy deacon showed him where he had them stored, by pointing to the many troops of poor saints, in the feeding and clothing of whom he had a store of riches which he could not lose, and which were the more entirely safe that the money had been spent on so holy a cause.
The baffled plunderer, therefore, frets, and blazing out into hatred of a religion, which had put riches to such a use, determines to pillage a still greater treasure by carrying off that sacred deposit, wherewith he was enriched, as he could find no solid hoard of money in his possession. He orders Laurentius to renounce Christ, and prepares to ply the deacon’s stout courage with frightful tortures: and, when the first elicit nothing, fiercer follow. His limbs, torn and mangled by many cutting blows, are commanded to be broiled upon the fire in an iron framework, which was of itself already hot enough to burn him, and on which his limbs were turned from time to time, to make the torment fiercer, and the death more lingering.
Thou gainest nothing, thou prevailest nothing, O savage cruelty. His mortal frame is released from thy devices, and, when Laurentius departs to heaven, thou art vanquished. The flame of Christ’s love could not be overcome by thy flames, and the fire which burnt outside was less keen than that which blazed within.”
Leo the Great (c. 400-461) in Sermon LXXXV on the feast day remembering Laurentius.
What are the lessons for us today?
I leave you with three, the first of which bears repeating: “examples are stronger than words, and there is more teaching in practice than in precept.” If you want to live a generous life, do it in actions, not merely words or principles.
Secondly, “sacred deposits” are people and not money. Laurentius had poured the revenues of the church into people. The early church won the world by using money to care for people. Life is short, so let us use what we have to show God’s love to people.
Thirdly, “wondrous courage” is “born principally of love for Christ.” If you want to leave the most generous example in an increasingly anti-Christian world, then focus on one thing: the love of Christ. Your generosity may lead to suffering, but your impact will grow exponentially in this life and your eternal reward will far surpass any momentary difficulty.
Yesterday was a great day with Shawn Manley, who now serves with me as CFO/COO of Global Trust Partners. I am praising God for how He is bringing the people together for that effort. We are still praying for provision to launch the organizational efforts more formally in July. Thanks for your prayers for that.
Today I fly with Jenni to Orlando, Florida, to host a Korean delegation visiting Warner University, where my brother serves as president. The Koreans are dear friends of ours. We were invited to host them for a brief visit so it is our privilege. It will be great to see my parents and my brother and his wife too.