Casper ten Boom died at age 84, Polycarp at 86. What did they share, apart from relatively advanced years? The answer is simple: a willingness to lay down their lives for what they believed.
Polycarp, a Second Century Bishop of Smyrna, was arrested for refusing to burn incense in honour of the emperor’s divinity. When threatened with flames for himself, he famously replied: “Eighty six years I have served Him (Christ), and he has never done me injury; how then can I now blaspheme my King and savior?” His refusal led to his martyrdom, on behalf of a principle, that of worship only where worship is due.
Ten Boom was arrested in 1944 for anti-Nazi resistance activities, including the harbouring of Jews. Because of his age he was told he would be allowed home. He responded that if he was freed, he would continue to aid whoever came to his door for help. The clear implication was that this included Jews. When challenged that he could be killed for such assistance he replied: “It would be an honour to give my life for God’s chosen people.” He remained in prison for 10 days, and died in hospital at the end of his captivity.
Polycarp is remembered as a champion of the Christian faith, and ten Boom has been recognised as one of “righteous among the nations,” by Israel.
We each face challenges for our beliefs, principles, and values. Where will you make your stand?