Jun 1 – Memorial for St. Justin, martyr
He was born at the beginning of the second century in Nablus, in Samaria, of a pagan Greek family. He was an earnest seeker after truth, and studied many systems of philosophy before being led, through Platonism, to Christianity. While remaining a layman, he accepted the duty of making the truth known and travelled from place to place, proclaiming the gospel. In 151, he travelled from Ephesus to Rome, where he opened a school of philosophy and wrote defences and expositions of Christianity, which have survived to this day, and are the earliest known writings of their kind. In the persecution of 165, in the reign of the emperor Marcus Aurelius, he was denounced as a Christian, arrested and beheaded. The transcript of his trial by the prefect of Rome, Rusticus, has also survived: it can be found in today’s Office of Readings.
Justin treats the Greek philosophy that he studied as mostly true, but incomplete. In contrast to the Hebrew tendency to view God as making revelations to them and to no-one else, he follows the parable of the Sower, and sees God as sowing the seed of wisdom throughout the world, to grow wherever the soil would receive it. When we dispute with people who disagree with us, we would do well to assume that they too are seeking wisdom, and have found truth of a kind. Since there is only one God and one Truth, it is our task not to contradict or belittle their achievement, but to show them how their strivings and searches are ultimately fulfilled in Christ. This is harder to do – not least, because we have to take the trouble to understand our own faith thoroughly – but it is ultimately more worthwhile.
“Is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
It is a duty of Christians to be good citizens wherever they are. We are blessed, here in Singapore, that it is not often we come to a moral crossroads between doing what is morally and ethically right and obeying the law. But, in many places, this is not the case.
The authority given to govern is also not a thing to be tinkered with. Power must be used for the common good of the people. Without law and order, things would be chaotic and unruly, and we’d find it hard to make a living and raise a family.
Just looking at the news will give us an insight into life in some other places around the world, where governments can subscribe to ideals that are downright selfish or violent, but somehow still be in power as a government.
Freedom is the ability to do what is right. What if this freedom was taken away? How many years could you and I live under oppression before we are broken?
In this way, I see governments, bosses, managers, teachers, families and other societal structures as an extension of God’s authority. Unfortunately, some may be misguided in what they desire as the outcome or the method of getting the job done.
How are we to act as Christians? There is a fine line between admonishing the sinner and turning the other cheek, or being charitable. Most would say not to admonish the sinner unless you can do it lovingly. I’m afraid that would rule me out for the foreseeable future.
Saint Justin was beheaded on account of what he believed after he had a disagreement with a cynic philosopher who reported him to the Roman authorities. I pray it doesn’t come to that for us. Most of us are blessed in such a way that this may never happen. But if it does, I hope I have the courage to choose Jesus.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Daryl De Payva)
Prayer: Oh God, grant us courage and clarity to see the things of this world as they are, and to stand up for moral and ethical issues if you give us that opportunity.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for all authority figures in our lives and bless them to do what’s right for the good of those under their care.