"In the name of Christ stop, Colosseum, dangerous believer, emperor, entertainment for the crowd, gladiators, hear God speak, Jim Eliot quote, monk, Rome, spiritual pacifists, standing alone, Telemachus, the world cannot hate us
One of my favorite stories to hear retold is about Telemachus, a 4th century Christian monk. He lived a life of no importance in a small remote village in Asia Minor. Like most monks of his day he spent his time tending the garden and most of the time in prayer. One day he thought he heard the voice of God telling him to go to Rome. So he obeyed the voice and quickly set out for Rome on foot.
After a long, weary journey, Telemachus arrived in the huge city of Rome during a time of great festivity. It was easy for the little monk to know what to do and where to go…. follow the crowds. The city was like the circulatory system of a wild animal. The surge of the crowds quickly led Telemachus around the city and into its heart, the Colosseum.
Soon the lone monk saw the gladiators stand before the emperor and say, “We who are about to die salute you.” It was then he realized these warriors were going to fight to the death…all for the entertainment of the crowd. The little monk was in shock. Telemachus cried out, “In the name of Christ, stop!”
As the games began, he pushed his way through the crowd crying over and over again, “In the name of Christ, stop!” Eventually the little monk made his way to the wall crying even louder, “In the name of Christ, stop!” He climbed his way over the wall, and dropped to the floor of the arena. When the crowd saw this tiny figure rushing to the gladiators and saying, “In the name of Christ, stop!”, they thought it was part of the show and began laughing. When they realized it wasn’t a part of the show but only a protester, the laughter turned to anger. As Telemachus was pleading with the gladiators to stop, one of them plunged a sword into the monk’s body. He immediately fell to the sand. As he was dying, his last words were, “In the name of Christ, stop!”
Then a strange thing happened that day on the Colosseum floor. The gladiators stood looking at the tiny figure lying there. A hush fell over the Colosseum. Way up in the upper rows, a man stood and made his way to the exit. Others began to follow. In dead silence, everyone left the Colosseum. The year was 391 AD, and that was the last battle to the death between gladiators in the Roman Colosseum. Never again in the great stadium did men kill each other for the entertainment of the crowd. The course of history was changed promptly by one tiny voice which could hardly be heard above the roar of the crowds. This one voice was prompted by God to speak truth and make a difference.
This is a true story and is found in the writings of Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrrhus in Syria (393-457 A.D.) When I share it… I like to embellish it a bit.
Another martyr, Jim Eliot spoke succinctly and clearly about this same issue. “While we profess to know a power the 20th century cannot reckon with, we are all side-liners. Coaching and criticizing the real wrestlers while content to set by and leave the enemies of God unchallenged. We are spiritual pacifists, conscientious objectors in the Battle-of-the-Death, with principalities and powers in the heavenly places. The world cannot hate us: we are too much like its own. Oh that God would make us dangerous.”
It is difficult many times being a lone voice. Maybe you’re a lone voice about the injustices you discern. The crowds around you believe and are flowing one direction, but you stand alone and are going the opposite way. It takes heart to speak out when it’s easier to keep quiet. It takes courage to stand up when you’re standing alone.
Whether you are mislabeled, misunderstood, isolated, or just afraid…don’t let the flow of the crowd define who you are and what God has called you to be. I think one of the most important points of Telemachus’ life was not that he went to Rome and stood in protest in the Colosseum. No, one day in the quietness of his garden and prayer time…he heard God speak and followed Him in obedience. People don’t stand alone for very long without fully knowing “why” they are standing in that place. The most dangerous people in the world are those folks who have a word and take their stand. How about you… are you dangerous?
Be Blessed and Dangerous,