Our society is not perfectly just. There are many shortcomings and issues we face as we work toward a more just society. But, we do not know how to tolerate injustice and suffer injustice with grace and nobility. Instead, we focus on ourselves and how we feel about the injustice or unfairness we’re suffering.
But, is that the solution? In this episode, I’ll discuss what we can learn about tolerating injustice from the martyrdom of Polycarp.
Who was Polycarp of Smyrna?
Polycarp was a bishop in the early second century who knew the Apostle John and was actually a disciple of his. He also knew Ireneaus, who would have met him when he was young and recorded some of Polycarp’s teaching. Of the Church Fathers, Polycarp is one of the more well-documented figures. Read more about him here.
Martyrdom of Polycarp
The Martyrdom of Polycarp is actually a letter from the church at Philomelium to the church of Smyrna. In it, you’ll find the account of Polycarp’s death in a stadium and his arrest. It also details some miraculous events that mirror parts of the Crucifixion story.
How to Tolerate Injustice
The problem with injustice is that it doesn’t help to worry about it, but to accept it. There are times where you can fight back, but you have to do that carefully. Our culture is filled with injustice and unfairness that is truly unique to us. Now, we have to learn how to cope with injustice in divorce proceedings, discrimination lawsuits, and much more. The psychological effects of injustice can be hard to cope with.
Examples of unfairness in the world
There are plenty of examples of life being unfair to people. You could point to things that are unfair in school or things that are unfair in the world. You might even think with all the unfair things happening in the world that we can’t rectify these injustices. Things like the ones listed below
- Some people are smarter than you
- People may be richer than you
- Others may be better-looking than you
- People may have opportunities you don’t
But, all of these examples of fair and unfair situations don’t matter as much as how you handle them.
How do you let go of injustice?
To let go of injustice, you have to forgive. Forgiveness is not only to help the other person, but to free you as well. In fact, letting go does more for your soul than the other person's. There is a feeling of injustice that you have to overcome and let go of. You have to know how to deal with injustice in the world. That starts at home where you learn to deal with injustice in the family by going through it with the people you love. What's good about that is you get to learn how to deal with this tough situation with people who care about you. But, I think we can learn best about tolerating injustice form people who suffered through severe injustice with grace and dignity.
Why Polycarp is an example of how to tolerate injustice
You may wonder "Why am I obsessed with fairness?" In all likelihood, it's because you grew up in a Christian culture. Athens and Rome shaped our ideas of fairness and justice.
What we learn from the martyrdom of Polycarp is that things in this life will not always be fair, and sometimes we have to suffer through injustices. But, injustice is not a permission to do simple or unjust things. Rather, it is a call to offer up your suffering to God.