The Way of the Cross
What I mean is that a life with Jesus is a life lived upside down, utterly contrary to the standards of the world. In Jesus’ topsy turvy Kingdom, weakness is power, suffering is glory, shame is victory. In 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, Paul writes this:
“Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. 27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.” 30 God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. 31 Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.”
I don’t know about you, but when I think about the martyred icons of the church, about the Christians who lived this idea out to the extreme, I mostly think of the men.
From the book of Acts, there’s Stephen, stoned for his faith. Then Jesus’ apostles met grisly ends for the sake of their faith. It’s said that Peter was crucified upside down. Philip, Andrew, Simon, James? All martyred. Then, from the 2nd to the 4th centuries, we have the so-called “age of martyrs,” with prominent names like Polycarp, Origen, Ignatius of Antioch and, appropriately, Justin Martyr.
Heroes all. But what of the women?
I mean, sure, there’s 15th century Joan of Arc, but what do you have after that?
Today let me introduce you to a group of women who were martyred for their faith. This article here profiles 18 of these women, and it is a summary of a larger list of 170 known female martyrs profiled in the book Feminine Threads.
For now, meet Donata, from AD 180:
“One of 12 Christians from the African town of Scilita who were martyred at Carthage. When called upon to sacrifice, she replied, ‘We render to Caesar as Caesar, but worship and prayers to God alone.’”
And meet Felicitus, from AD 162:
“Roman lady who brought up her seven sons in the Christian faith. She was seized and called on to give up Christ to spare her family; but she remained faithful to Christ. Her sons too refused to sacrifice to the Emperor. They all were executed–Felicitas and her sons Januarius, Felix, Phillipus, Sylvanus, Alexander, Vitalis, and Martialis.”
Or meet Blandina, from AD 177:
“Female slave martyred at Lyons. Though the weakest of the martyrs that day, she showed the most courage. She was thrown to the wild beasts and finally gored to death by a bull.”
Friends, when it comes to the upside down Kingdom of God, there is no privilege. Women and men are both called to walk the way of the cross.
So today, let’s set the record straight. The history of our faith affirms the martyred faithfulness of both men and women.
Thank God for their lives, and may we live in ways that honor their sacrifices.