A spirit of compromise is descending upon the Church in Western culture. That compromise is not about the lesser things that occupy the mind of some believers like, what to eat, drink and where to go for entertainment. I am speaking of the deepest of all issues of faith, the person of Jesus Christ as the only Redeemer.
A disciple of Apostle John, Polycarp, lived from 69 AD until 155 AD. Polycarp carried an important transitional role between the first and second generations of the Church. He was engaged in confronting the emerging heresies of his day. Those heresies, the most dangerous of all, had to do with Jesus Christ. Polycarp understood that many things could be up for debate and preference in the Church, but not the work and person of Jesus as the Son of God and the only Redeemer of all mankind.
In Polycarp’s lifetime, the Church had become a threat to Rome. It became the duty of Rome to extinguish the flame of faith at all costs. Horribly brutal persecution was sweeping through Roman culture wherever Christ was professed. When it was time for Rome to call Polycarp to account, they threatened the old man with death. He was offered a choice of compromise. All Polycarp had to do was offer a pinch of incense as an offering to Caesar as god and his life would be spared. When offered a way out of martyrdom he uttered these words, “Eighty-six years I have served Christ, and He never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” When he refused to ascribe divinity to Caesar, he was burned at the stake.
Every believer will have a moment in their life when a pinch of compromise will be offered to diminish the name of Jesus Christ. That moment is where the greatest memory of a life is recorded, either good or bad. Compromise to Polycarp was not about some childish spiritual-sounding argument about politics, whether Christians can drink wine or go to R-rated movies. It was about Jesus as God. He was asked to deny the divinity of Jesus and ascribe that divinity to Caesar. He could make such a definite and life-altering decision because he had an impassable line in his faith he would not cross when it came to Jesus. That same line must be defined by each of us or in a time of conflict and fear we will succumb to an easy way out that will demean both His name and our testimony. That choice can bring death to some of our existing relationships and to our reputation in a culture where pantheism reigns and where everyone is doing what seems right in their own eyes.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life and no one can come to the Father except through me.” That truth was the final straw added to the kindling that would consume the life of Polycarp in the flames of martyrdom. His life would be remembered as one who burned incense to no other name but the name of Jesus.