As I write, our world is once again traumatized by a senseless shooting of innocent people. This time a deranged individual opened fire at worshippers during a Sunday service at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in the United States. Violence in our days seems to have become commonplace, whether it be drug cartels in Latin America, war in the Middle East, or a massacre in a small rural community in the US. In the wake of tragedies like this, we often ask questions, such as how could this be avoided, or can anything be done to change the world we live in.
One Person Can Change the World
In an interesting coincidence, I heard another story this week. This time, the story was one of heroism, which happened in the ancient world. It inspired me to think that it is possible for one person to change history. Leadership is about influence, and sometimes the greatest influence we can have is laying down our lives. The account is from more than a thousand years ago, when Rome ruled the world and gladiators were the favorite spectator sport of the masses.
Telemacus, the Monk
It was around 400 AD when a Christian monk named Telemachus felt God calling him to go to Rome, the capital of the Western world at the time. In the big metropolis, the humble monk found himself following a large crowd into the Coliseum, the enormous stadium where gladiators fought to the death for the amusement of the crowd.
Appalled by the sight of men killing each other while the crowds cheered, Telemachus began shouting “In the Name of Christ, stop this!” When the crowd ignored him, he proceeded to jump into the arena and attempted to stop the fighting, only to be pierced to death by the sword of one of the gladiators. According to tradition, Telemachus died whispering the same words he had been pleading with the crowd. “In the Name of Christ, stop this!”
The whole incident made such an impact that as a result, the emperor Honorius decreed the end of gladiator games in Rome.
Jesus said “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.”
Telemachus’ death accomplished more than what his life could. The history of our faith has many stories like this, of men and women who paid the ultimate price, often anonymously. Whose death ultimately paved a way for meaningful change.
Other followers of Christ through history didn’t die physically, but sacrificed all for a vision that eventually changed the world. Martin Luther, John Wesley, and Mother Teresa are only a few that come to mind. They died to themselves in favor of a vision, a mental image of a preferable future revealed to them by God, which ignited a fire in their hearts that could not be quenched. Ultimately the world noticed, circumstances changed, and they helped write history.