‘You can kill us, but you cannot hurt us’

Flavius Justinus (Justin) was born in 100 AD as a Roman citizen and into a family of means.

Flavius Justinus (Justin) was born in 100 AD as a Roman citizen and into a family of means. He became highly educated and was especially engaged in researching and understanding various philosophies. He studied stoicism, Aristotle, Socrates, Plato and Pythagoras. However, none of these satisfied his thirst for truth.

Restless, he found himself walking on a beach in 132 AD, where he encountered an older man, a Christian, who engaged him in conversation. The man began pointing out the inadequacies of various philosophies; things that Justin hadn’t really considered. Though he was initially opposed to what he was hearing, following the dialogue, he converted to what he’d previously referred to as “the despised faith.”

Justin was born in Samaria near the well where Jesus met the Samaritan woman referred to in John Chapter 4. Like that woman, Justin had found the Living Water and he drank deeply and was satisfied.

Justin’s conversion was by no means the end of the story. He came to love the Scriptures, and said that they “possess a terrible power in themselves, and are sufficient to inspire those who turn aside … the sweetest rest is afforded those who make a diligent practice of them.”

From 155-160 AD, Justin wrote a two-part “apologeia”; an explanation or apologetic of the Christian faith. He addressed this to Antonius Pius (Roman Emperor from 138-161 AD). For that reason, he’s referred to as the “Father of Christian Apologetics.”

Justin lived and served as a Christian layperson, philosopher and apologist for about 30 years. Christians faced great persecution during that time, so it is no surprise that he was eventually arrested. The Emperor at that time was Marcus Aurelius. He ruled from 161-180 AD, and incidentally was portrayed by Richard Harris in the movie “Gladiator.”

There is a misunderstanding about why Christians were martyred under the Roman Empire. It wasn’t because they worshiped Christ, but because they worshiped Him alone and refused to engage in Emperor worship. Roman authorities cared little how many deities you had as long as you paid homage to the Emperor.

Justin had already spoken boldly on this matter. He’d explained in his apologetics that though Christians willingly pay taxes and pray for the Emperor, they will not pray to the Emperor! He also told those who were persecuting Christians that because of the promises of Christ, most notably the resurrection, “You can kill us, but you cannot hurt us.”

In 165 AD, he was put on trial as a Christian and given the opportunity to recant. He stood firm and was beheaded, earning his second title, “Justin Martyr.”

“The tyrant dies and his rule is over, the martyr dies and his rule begins.” Soren Kierkegaard

Pastor Ross Helgeton is the senior pastor of Erskine Evangelical Free Church.

— Faith & Reflection