John 16:33 NIV¹
According to the new world encyclopedia, the story of Paul and Thecla reflects both the ascetic² tendency and the experience of persecution of early Christianity in Iconium. Pauls teachings lead Thecla into trouble, and yet Paul was never there when the trouble came, even denying he knows her and inexplicably leaving her to defend herself against an attempted rape. Thecla against all odds embraced the archetypal legendary life that faced death on a daily basis without hesitation. Thecla was stripped and put to the fire, but she was saved by a miraculous storm. Accused later of “sacrilege,” Thecla was stripped again and thrown in with wild beasts in the city’s arena. First a lioness fought off the other beasts, and then a series of other miracles. Thecla lived on to be a saint in the early Church.
For most people, life is a day-to-day scuffle to stay afloat or survive the pits. Religion has set the bar of a relationship with God out of reach for every believer. The dynamic message of the cross and work of the Holy Spirit has been blurred by our magnificent drama of survival for the fittest. Christianity has solely become a product of circumstances and self improvement but not fundamentally by faith in God. Church buildings have morphed into therapeutic feel good centers and made the truth and power of the cross and resurrection practically irrelevant and history.
Just like in the small arenas or pits, victory in life isn’t winning the fight or staying alive but rather freedom. According to the gospel of John 16:20 ESV³, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.”
Humanity isn’t free from faith, it’s free because of it.
¹ The Bible. New International Version.
² “Asceticism.” New World Encyclopedia, 16 Jan 2019. newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Asceticism. Accessed 25 Feb 2020.
³ The Bible. English Standard Version.
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