Written by Glenn Penner
What difference can one person make? Perhaps you’ve wondered that yourself. “How can I make a difference when I am only one person, and not a particularly important one at that?”
During the reign of the Roman Empire, Romans attended gladiatorial games at the Coliseum for entertainment. There gladiators would fight criminals, prisoners and vicious animals until death.
It was January 1404 A.D. when a hermit monk named Telemachus travelled to Rome just in time to attend games celebrating a Roman army victory. Telemachus watched in horror as gladiators struck down fighter after fighter. He could stand it no longer. He leaped into the arena.
“Do not requite God’s mercy,” Telemachus shouted, “in turning away the swords of your enemies by murdering each other!”
Neither the crowd nor the combatants paid any attention. Desperate, he ran from gladiator to gladiator, imploring them to stop. The crowd mocked him, shouting, “Sedition! Sedition! Down with him! This is no place for preaching! The old customs of Rome must be observed! On gladiators!”
Some accounts say Telemachus was struck down by those fighting in the arena. Others say the indignant spectators stoned the peacemaker to death. The latter is probably true. In either case, his actions and his death had a far-reaching impact on Rome.
Telemachus made others aware that the gory killing contests had no place among true Christians. Upon hearing that the peaceful man had been slain, the Christian Emperor Honorarius issued an edict banning gladiatorial combats. Telemachus saved countless others with his passionate, selfless act.
When Telemachus began that day, I doubt that he had any idea that this would be the day of his martyrdom. He had not gone looking to make a difference. He was on his way to the East to live a life of solitude. But encountering life as he did, he determined to make a difference for Christ’s sake and, in doing so, saved the lives of thousands and changed the Roman Empire forever.
As you go about your life today, be sensitive to those times when you can make a difference for today and for eternity. You can’t plan these things ahead of time. But you can live your life in such a way as to be ready to obey when called upon by the Spirit of God, beginning each day asking Christ to live His life in and through you to His glory.
Glenn Penner, former CEO of The Voice of the Martyrs Canada, passed away in January 2010. Glenn was passionate about researching and teaching the theology of persecution. For more of his writing, you can check out his book, In the Shadow of the Cross.