“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.” (Matthew 24:9)
The cross demonstrates to the Christian that the primary weapon to overcome evil is not sword or spear, or gun and bomb, but rather sacrifice and suffering. If this is the case, then women have been fighting in the front lines from the very inception of the Church. Among these women warriors of the cross, few rank higher than Perpetua and Felicity.
Perpetua and Felicity are martyrs from the early third century. Their story is both tragic and inspiring. Perpetua was a noble woman while Felicity was a slave, but their faith in Christ brought them together as sisters. Both of them were young mothers. Perpetua nursed her young child in the dungeons of Carthage, and Felicity actually gave birth during her incarceration.
Each of them had opportunity to recant their faith, to return to their families, and to raise their infants. They remained true, however, to their Christian convictions. In the arena of Carthage, they were set upon by wild animals and eventually killed by the blade of the gladiators, their faith never wavering.
There are times in my own Christian journey that I long for the “good old days” – the days when Christianity was viewed more favorably by the larger culture (at least in the US). I want to “defend the faith,” which usually means attacking someone else. I want to use the “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God,” to cut others down to size. This often means that I forget that the sword of the Spirit reminds me to love my neighbor, to care for the stranger, and ultimately that I am called to be a living sacrifice and, if necessary, to lay down my life. Christ did not say that I would be loved by the world because of my faith in him, but rather that I was to love a world that hated me because of my faith in him.
Perpetua and Felicity remind me that the “good old days” weren’t always so good, that I am called to be a sacrifice, and that the shadow of the cross extended across the arenas of the Roman empire and across the cultural arenas in which we find ourselves today. I am called to take a stand in those arenas, but it is a stand that is accompanied by love for my enemy and deep personal sacrifice.
Heavenly Father, please reveal to me today where I am picking up stones instead of my cross. Help me to take a stand by being a sacrifice. Give me the strength of Perpetua and Felicity to live under the shadow of the cross in the arenas in which you have placed me. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.