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Courage under fire

He was just a monk.

A lowly little monk who’d dedicated his life to God and lived in a monastery.

But, one day he heard about the infamous gladiator fights in Rome and decided to go witness one for himself. So, he left the monastery and made the long journey to Rome. And, what happened after he arrived there changed the course-of-history.

When Telemachus entered the city on January 1, 404 A.D., he saw the streets filled with hundreds and hundreds of people headed to the coliseum. They were laughing and running through the streets like children with a new toy at Christmastime.

“These gladiator games must really be exciting,” the monk probably thought to himself.

Perhaps he thought the gladiator games were some type of athletic competition or similar to our boxing matches. So, he decided to enter the coliseum and witness the contests for himself. Needless to say, he was shocked—yea, horrified—by what he saw.

There, in the arena floor, he saw hundreds of men engaged in mortal combat. He heard the crowd’s bloodthirsty cries for the death of a vanquished opponent and their cheers for the victorious ones. He saw Roman Emperor Honorius’ signaling for life or death of the defeated gladiator, dependent upon the crowd’s wishes, by giving a thumbs-up or thumbs-down sign.

As he stood there, horrified by what he was witnessing, he was moved to do something about it. Jumping over the rail that separated the arena from the stadium seats, Telemachus ran into the center of the arena. Surrounded by the dueling gladiators, he raised both arms upwards and began crying, “In the Name of Christ, forbear! In the Name of Christ, forbear!”

At first, the crowd ignored him or laughed at the sight of a robe-clad monk standing amongst the gladiators. But, then they heard his cry and began to hiss and boo.

“Run him through! Run him through!” they began to scream.

One of the gladiators heard their cry, moved toward the monk and knocked him down with a swift uppercut, laughing as he felled the frail man. But, to his surprise, the monk — bruised and bleeding — quickly arose from the crowd, raised his arms to the sky and began shouting, “In the Name of Christ, forbear! In the Name of Christ, forbear!”

By this time the bloodthirsty crowd had become angry at his intrusion and interruption. So, once again they began shouting, “Run him through! Run him through!” And, this time one of the gladiators did just that — plunging his sharp, two-edged sword through the monk’s body.

With his life’s crimson blood pouring out onto the arena’s dirt floor below, the mortally-wounded monk fell to the ground in a heap. The crowd cheered. The gladiator held his sword high and did a victory dance.

But, slowly … ever so slowly … the dying monk raised himself up … lifted his arms to the heavens … and cried, “In the Name of Christ forbear! In the Name of Christ forbear!” Then, he collapsed, fell to the ground and died.

A silence fell over the crowd. No shouting. No laughing. No stirring. Just a dead silence. Then, after a couple of minutes, one of the spectators rose up and walked out. Then another and another. And, history records that that was the last gladiator fight ever fought in the Roman Empire.

All because one, lowly monk demonstrated great courage under fire.

Dear Reader, what would happen if we also did the same? What would happen if we, like Telemachus or Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty,” always chose to stand on Truth regardless of the cost or consequences?

I suspect the current hostile climate toward people of faith — particularly Christians — would slow down a bit. Here’s praying we, like Telemachus and the many other “Heroes of Faith” down through the centuries, will also be courageous, not cowardice, when attacked for what we believe. May God help us. God bless you.

To contact Bro. Tom or receive his daily e-mail devotional, entitled “Morning Manna,” write him at P.O. Box 10614, Fort Smith, AR 72917 or e-mail him at pressingon@hotmail.com.

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