"A great reformation and revival--it will happen the same way the early Christians conquered Rome. Their program consisted largely of two elements: Gospel preaching and being eaten by lions, a strategy that has not yet captured the imagination of the contemporary church."
- Douglas Wilson
Full disclosure; I came across this quote on TikTok. So, no, I don't have any more context or information on the source. I really share it because it is what sparked the thoughts which will follow.
I recently talked with young adults about Acts 2:42 and the idea of being devoted. It was a whole discussion on what devotion really looks like in our lives, what motivates our devotion, etc. (Spoiler Alert: It's living in obedience to God and His Word as a response to His salvation and love for us.)
We talked about the impact the early church had because of their genuine devotion...because they lived lives consecrated to the Kingdom. In the course of the conversation, this quote came up and it took us on a little tangent that I've been chewing on.
See, as Jesus-followers, I don't think we have to worry about getting fed to lions. Hopefully. While the quote does I think speak to the idea of persecution and that is certainly a valid conversation, I think it moreso speaks to the idea of sacrifice.
See, they knew following Jesus could lead them into an arena with lions. It wasn't a shock or surprise, but part of life. Jesus promised persecution. He even said we are blessed when we are persecuted for his namesake. They could live differently and save themselves...but they didn't.
Their devotion led to sacrifice. Not that they wanted to be eaten by lions, just that they were willing to be.
This brings me back to not being so worried about being fed to literal lions but asking myself if there are things in my life I need to let be eaten by lions (the figurative kind).
Are there things I need to sacrifice in order for my life to fully preach the Gospel?
This is a tough question. I don't think we have to live like monks in order for people to see Jesus. But I do think living so others can see Jesus mean surrendering and sacrificing some things so He is more clearly seen in and through me.
Perhaps I need to sacrifice some of my preferences and opinions.
Perhaps I need to sacrifice some justifications of gray areas in my life to lean into holiness.
Perhaps I need to give up some things that may not be bad but aren't good for me in order to show off God's best.
I could spend pages giving more specific examples, but I won't. The point is, are there things in my life--be they sinful or simply just not God's best for me personally-- I need to let be eaten by lions?
When was the last time I assessed the dusty and dark places of my heart, went to the root of my negative emotions/thoughts, and aligned my personal convictions with the Holy Spirit's will for me?
God loves me..and you. His love should drive us toward a devotion that isn't about rules and guilt and shame and trying to be perfect, but is about desiring to live our lives in a way that honors Him and points people to a picture of Him and His Kingdom.
In order to do that, I may need to let some things be eaten by lions.