International (MNN) — Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage in the 3rd century, faced social unrest, political challenges, and plague, navigating it all with the wisdom and hope of Christ.
If your life feels unsettled in 2020, early Christians in North Africa faced similar struggles. Denise Godwin of International Media Ministries (IMM) points to Cyprian, who was a Bishop of Carthage in the third century. He faced persecution as a Roman emperor tried getting Christians to sacrifice to pagan gods. “They were having bad luck in battle and that sort of thing. There was this great persecution that arose. [It wasn’t] so much that they were saying anti-Christian things. They just needed them to come on board and be pro-Roman gods so that they could get luck back into the culture.”
Obviously, most Christians wouldn’t do this, being loyal to Christ alone. Godwin says, “Cyprian led the church during that time, [showing] what was important to stand for, whether to go into exile and how to lead people who are confused by what’s going on in culture and challenged by what’s going on in the culture.”
After the persecution
Some Christians did sacrifice to the Roman gods during the persecution. When it ended, how did the Church respond to these people? Cyprian encouraged the Church to join in councils to discuss the matter openly. Godwin says, “They debated the issues. It was hard. There was discussion, there was disagreement. They found a new unity by coming together and having these discussions.”
Sometime later, a severe plague broke out in the Roman Empire. Godwin says, “Cyprian rallied the Christians to go out in the streets, bury the dead, and take care of people who were dying of the plague. There was a huge change in the culture in the years to come. Many, many people became Christians because it was so compelling to see Christians caring for people who even persecuted them.
IMM is bringing Cyprian’s story to life through short videos portraying the plague and persecution. Check out IMM’s Heritage Project here. Godwin says the project should be completed by the fall.
Pray for the IMM team as they finish the project, that they would have renewed strength. Pray also for people around the world who interact with IMM’s videos. Godwin says, “Inquiries have quadrupled in many parts of the world. People want to know about God in these strange times that we’re living in. It’s an incredible opportunity for the Church to be full of hope and light and to be praying for one another, as we all experience some kind of crisis in different degrees.”
Archeological ruins of Carthage, the city in which Cyprian was the bishop. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)