A special thanks to Blue Shepard for allowing me to publish his weekly e-newsletter here on Vigilant Wolf. The Blue Shepard is a friend and past guest of Ever Vigilant podcast (episode 43). I personally look forward to his weekly thoughts on Christianity, Manhood, and Brotherhood and I believe you will feel the same.
The day was like any other for one of a panel of judicial officials named Dionysius. He had left his family at home for another day on the grind. Another case to hear - another lunatic to dispatch; Nothing old, nothing new - so he must have thought. "We have another madman introducing some new heresy," one of his fellow magistrates informed him. "This one claims to know the Unknown God." A mixture of cynical humor and apathetic curiosity was in the atmosphere as they prepared for the inquisition.
Everyone gathered at the Hill. The stage was set. It was dark. The sacrificial beasts were slain in preparation and the entrails thereof were placed at the feet of the accuser as he swore to the verity of his accusations. Next, the defendant was brought over the same pile of refuse and sworn to verity. The trial proceeded like any trial, with an accusing argument. The defendant, a plain looking man, stood in stoic solemnity as the prosecutor railed against him. "This man has introduced a new God. This is strictly forbidden and he must be put to death!" As the crowd chattered, the accused stood mute, as a meek lamb.
"Let us hear the matter. You who are accused, your name?" asked one of the judges. "Paul - from Tarsus," he stated in a collected manner. "What is this new religion, Paul from Tarsus, which you have been propagating around our great city? Are you not aware that this is neither lawful nor proper?" Paul, still as serene as ever, without hesitation, second thought or preparation, almost as if another voice were speaking through him, confidently gave his testimony. "You men of Athens are very religious, indeed. So religious, in fact, that you have gone to great lengths to ensure that you do not offend any god by neglecting to honor him. I knew this when I saw your altar which you have erected in this city - the altar inscribed, "TO THE UNKNOWN GOD." I have in no way introduced a new religion and have not trespassed against your laws. I have, however, attempted to open the eyes of these devout and curious men of Athens to the definite knowledge of the God whom they have so revered. It is this God, that you claim not to know, who I reveal to you." A fiery rash of gasps and whispers swept over the attendees and officials alike. As Paul raised his hands to signal his desire to continue speaking the throng promptly fell silent. All eyes and ears were tuned to this one man. Dionysius was all ears.
"God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead."
The crowd erupted in laughter and mockery. "I seriously thought he was going somewhere with this," one congregant snickered to another. "This man truly is mad!" The accuser interjected. "So the Unknown God was killed and resurrected? Preposterous!" shouted one of the judges. Dionysius, however, was in a state of silent consternation.
As the crowd dissipated, shaking their heads in disappointment, Dionysius kept his eyes fixed on the defendant. He found himself choking back nervous tears of overwhelming confusion. It was as if something had injured his soul and suddenly the world looked very different from how it ever had before. Now written off as a harmless lunatic, Paul was making his way down Mars Hill to continue to the next leg of his journey. Dionysius forced his way through the mass of bodies, fearing he would lose sight of Paul. Dionysius finally caught Paul and ferociously clutched his sleeve. "The God you spoke of -" Dionysius' words trailed off as he suddenly found himself intimidated by Paul's piercing gaze. This man's fearlessness and utter refusal to be intimidated, even by men of title and status, was not something to which Dionysius was accustomed. It sent chills down his spine. Suddenly he found himself wishing he possessed the inhuman boldness of this madman. His hands, though leathery and callused, were steady and steely. His stance was that of a battle-hardened warrior. His expression sent mixed signals: of a man who had tasted innocent blood, yet was somehow resolute and harmless. Dionysius felt that if the essence of a lion were to be personified, this must be it.
Paul spoke in a steadfast tone, "The one true God will accept you and declare you blameless if you believe in his son, repent of your sins against him and be baptized in his name." Against his reasoning Dionysius believed that the turmoil which he felt was guilt. Suddenly and mystically he thought himself in dire need of mercy, lest he be awfully judged and found guilty. Dionysius converted.
St. Paul made Dionysius the bishop of the Athenian church. After some time, Dionysius was led of the Lord to follow Paul. Dionysius was obedient to this call and became a disciple of Paul for about 3 years. After witnessing Paul's execution, Dionysius greatly desired to die a martyr's death. He evangelized Rome, the Germanic tribes, and finally Gaul, where he was arrested and martyred. His wife and children, however, remained in Athens.
There is, known to me, a fine Southern gentleman with a refined and humble air who pastors a church in Virginia. He is a veteran in ministry of the Word. But long ago his wife told him that she did not enjoy the life of a minister's wife. He made a most honorable and manly choice, deciding it better to obey God rather than man.
In Luke 14:26, Jesus preached that, "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple."
Somehow in American church culture we have utterly reversed this philosophy. The evangelism of those on whom you place familial priority will never supersede the supremacy of God's express direction for your life. Feel-good preaching that, "God is going to save your family because he promised" is scripturally unfounded and downright taking the Lord's name in vain absent divine epiphany. II Peter 3:9 is abused as a means to beguile the simpleminded into lifelong tithe-service on the pretense that their devotion will undoubtedly result in the salvation of their family. They therefore are hireling parishioners, lead astray by hireling shepherds, inasmuch as if they realized the truth, that Christ requires our allegiance at all costs, including the loss of families and all we hold dear, they would promptly abandon ship for a philosophy on life much more palatable to the conscience. The heretical dogma of divine family reunions must die.
More importantly we must strive to cultivate an atmosphere of stern resolution. Just as martyrdom should be desirable, the sacrifice of beloved relations for the cause of Christ is one of the highest honors. Men throw away their marriages for a pair of teats that are not their own, or for digital pixels depicting doctored flesh, or for the pursuit of boyish passions and addictions. Men divorce and dishonor their parents for petty grudges stemming from infancy. If worldly men so readily cast off their noblest of commitments for such frivolous motives, how much more should the man of God have a sense of disposability when it comes to fulfilling the will of the Capetian of Our Salvation?
Reflect on the lives of St. Dionysius the Areopagite and others who would not let any attachment stand in the way of accomplishing the task with which the Father had charged them. Our allegiance to Christ must not rest upon any condition of reward. It must be founded on the Chief Cornerstone alone. Without wavering, adhere to the will of God.
In order to fulfill all righteousness, press on. In order to satisfy the will of God, press on. If your parents stand in the way, press on. If your wife hinders you, press on. If your children turn aside, press on. If they live as total rebels and damn themselves to eternity in hell, press on. Though all others forsake you and though the Giver of Life himself slay you, press on - No turning back.
Remember Lot's wife.
Thy will be done.
c. Acts Chapter 17
The Blue Shepard
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