Julia hurried through the narrow streets, her cloak drawn over her head. Her breaths were quick as she kept to the shadows avoiding the bright burning lights overhead. She froze and flattened herself against the cold wall as footsteps accompanied by voices drew near. The flames overhead seemed to be taunting her as they flicked closer, daring to reveal her. She closed her eyes tight and sucked in, counting slowly in her head to calm herself. She let out her breath only after they had been gone for five seconds. She quickly scurried away, faster than ever to make up for her lost time.
Finally she arrived, out of breath and with flushed cheeks. She crept down a flight of stone steps and ducked inside the low doorway where ten others sat in the shadows. They all froze as she entered, but once they recognized her they all let out their breath. Smiles lit up everyone’s face and relief was evident in their eyes. They were safe. One of the elderly ladies in the corner patted the ground next to her, inviting Julia to sit. She gratefully lowered herself to the ground and tucked her shaky legs underneath her.
Very quietly, in the dim light of a sole candle, they all began to softly hum. Julia felt her heart warm at the beautiful melody and the beautiful reason for their song. The peace was soon interrupted as three men crashed into their room. Julia’s heart leapt in her chest and she instinctively pressed herself back against the wall. The room was lit only by the torch of one of the men for the original candle had died at their entrance. Julia squinted her eyes just enough to see the stern, ugly face of a Roman guard through the flickering flames of his torch. She felt sick at what was to happen to her and her friends. “Having a secret meeting are we?” The tallest one barked. The room was silent. “Answer me!” He screamed into the deathly silence. No one made a sound. “Alright, I’ll be generous this time.” He sneered, “You all know that Lord Nero despises your like, you Christians.” He spat as he said the word. “So, if you’re not a Christian, I’ll give you five seconds to get out!” He narrowed his eyes at them through the flames.
Julia’s mind raced and her throat went dry. She could escape, they all could. But if she left she’d be proclaiming that everything she believed in was a myth. She knew everyone was thinking the same thing. After a second half the people in the room ran past the guards without looking back. Julia watched them flee and made a choice that could very well cost her her life. She decided to stay. The elderly lady next to her stayed also.
It was only the two of them and three others. They sat, waiting, for certain death. After a few seconds the tall guard gave a big sigh, almost in relief. He pulled off his helmet and placed his torch on the wall. His mean eyes suddenly looked warm and friendly. “Good, all the fakes are gone.” He lowered himself to the ground as did the other two “guards”. Julia was amazed. Tears spilled down her cheeks and onto the rough floor. That night she truly worshiped from her heart.*
Most of you probably don’t live in a place where you’re persecuted for our beliefs, but what if you did? Would you be ready to die?
“I don’t care about my own life, the most important thing is that I complete my mission, the work that the Lord Jesus gave me—to tell people the Good News about God’s grace.”
*Based on a true story