Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Let Jesus Christ be Sung in Unity

I meant to post this during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Ignatius of Antioch, who was also a reputed disciple of John, the Apostle, became bishop of Antioch (in what was Syria, in the East) after the death of Evodius, around the year 68 AD. Ignatius served until his martyrdom, which is placed sometime just after the end of the 1st century. Toward the end of his life, he wrote extensively concerning the life and growth of the Church at the turn of the 1st century. He commented most beautifully on the necessity of Christian unity in beautiful metaphor and literary style.

From Chapters 3-5 of his Letter to the Church at Ephesus:
I do not issue orders to you, as if I were some great person. For though I am bound for the name [of Christ], I am not yet perfect in Jesus Christ. For now I begin to be a disciple, and I speak to you as fellow-disciples with me. For it was needful for me to have been stirred up by you in faith, exhortation, patience, and long-suffering. But inasmuch as love suffers me not to be silent in regard to you, I have therefore taken upon me first to exhort you that you would all run together in accordance with the will of God. For even Jesus Christ, our inseparable life, is the [manifested] will of the Father; as also bishops, settled everywhere to the utmost bounds [of the earth], are so by the will of Jesus Christ.

Wherefore it is fitting that you should run together in accordance with the will of your bishop, which thing also you do. For your justly renowned presbytery, worthy of God, is fitted as exactly to the bishop as the strings are to the harp. Therefore in your concord and harmonious love, Jesus Christ is sung. And do ye, man by man, become a choir, that being harmonious in love, and taking up the song of God in unison, you may with one voice sing to the Father through Jesus Christ, so that He may both hear you, and perceive by your works that you are indeed the members of His Son. It is profitable, therefore, that you should live in an unblameable unity, that thus you may always enjoy communion with God.

For if I in this brief space of time, have enjoyed such fellowship with your bishop — I mean not of a mere human, but of a spiritual nature — how much more do I reckon you happy who are so joined to him as the Church is to Jesus Christ, and as Jesus Christ is to the Father, that so all things may agree in unity! Let no man deceive himself: if any one be not within the altar, he is deprived of the bread of God. For if the prayer of one or two possesses such power, how much more that of the bishop and the whole Church! He, therefore, that does not assemble with the Church, has even by this manifested his pride, and condemned himself. For it is written, "God resists the proud." Let us be careful, then, not to set ourselves in opposition to the bishop, in order that we may be subject to God.
Ignatius of Antioch was certainly not a Johnny Come Lately to the Christian scene, as one who might have sought to undermine the Gospel he received from the mouths of apostles themselves. In fact, Ignatius offered his life for the faith he received and lived and inspired countless others by his witness.

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails