There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:28
In 1655, Charles Emmanuel II, the Duke of Savoy, led troops into a valley of the Piedmont in Northern Italy, where a peaceful people called the Waldenesians had lived for generations. Savoy used his political and military might to move into this area feigning peaceful intentions only to then brutally massacre the people whose simple bible believing ways offended him. Monarchs as far away as England’s Oliver Cromwell, decried the persecution as reprehensible and rose aid this innocent people. The poet John Milton was so moved by the incident that he wrote the sonnet entitled “On the Late Massacre in Piedmont,” saying,
Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints, whose bones
Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold,
Even them who kept thy truth so pure of old,
When all our fathers worshiped stocks and stones;
Forget not: in thy book record their groans
Who were thy sheep and in their ancient fold
Slain by the bloody Piedmontese that rolled
Mother with infant down the rocks. Their moans
The vales redoubled to the hills, and they
To Heaven. Their martyred blood and ashes so
O’er all th’ Italian fields where still doth sway
The triple tyrant; that from these may grow
A hundredfold, who having learnt thy way
Early may fly the Babylonian woe.
In the wake of the tragic shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, I am reminded that for those who believe strongly in the Jesus Christ and seek to live by His teaching, persecution waits. Since the early days of the Church, Christians have been persecuted by official and unofficial enemies, but triumph came with the display of the Gospel of Peace by those persecuted. As the old saint, Tertullian, said in the 2nd century AD, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”
The more Christians were persecuted, the more their faith was strengthened and the validity of their message of hope and peace was shown apparent. While at times false believers crept in and undermined the unity of the body and the truth, God still maintained a remnant who held the truth out of every nation, kindred and tongue who would not bow down under pressure knowing that the Gospel, the Good News of Salvation, was worthy of suffering and death. For this reason they were scattered and driven underground, but by the power of God, they still persevered and thrived.
While today there is much division among the various denominations of the Church, I am still convinced that this same Spirit of Christ unifies us. Without Jesus Christ, there is no Church. Without Him there is no peace. Without Jesus, there is no reconciling truth. “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:12-13).
For those of us in outrage over the slaying of innocents in Charleston or Syria or elsewhere, we must leave vengeance to the Lord and those He appoints to defend us. Let us remember the words of our Lord and Savior who said, “Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you” (Luke 6:26-28). Be one in Christ Jesus and pray for those suffering under the hand of the wicked.