Monday, March 23, 2015

"I Cannot Serve, For I Am A Christian"

Like most early Christians, Maximilian refused military service
In March, 295 AD, 21 year-old Maximilianus of Tebessa was ordered to appear with his father Fabius Victor before Dion, the Roman Governor of Numidia (modern day Algeria) in order to be sworn into the Roman army. While enlisting was voluntary for most, his father Fabius had served as a Roman soldier before he became a believer, and all sons of veterans were to be conscripted.

Because of the teachings of Jesus few Christians in the first several centuries of the church served in the Roman army, and in fact applicants for baptism were forbidden to enlist. Maxmilian is the first Christian conscientious objector on record to be beheaded for refusing military service. Later canonized as a Catholic saint, March 12 is designated as his feast day.

The following is one of many accounts that have been preserved of his refusal to serve:

When asked his name, Maximilian replied, "Why do you wish to know my name? I cannot serve because I am a Christian." 

Nevertheless, orders were given for him to be given the military seal. 

He answered, "I cannot do it: I cannot be a soldier." 

When told he must serve or die, he said, "You may cut off my head, but I will not serve. My army is the army of God, and I cannot fight for this world," it was pointed out to him that there were Christians serving as bodyguards for the emperors Diocletian and Maximian.

To this he replied, "That is their business. I am a Christian, too, and I cannot serve."

Dion then told Fabius Victor to correct his son. Victor, who had become a Christian, said, "He knows what he believes, and he won't change his mind."

Dion insisted, "Agree to serve and receive the military seal."

"I already have the seal of Christ, my God . . . I will not accept the seal of this world; if you give it to me, I will break it for it is worthless. I cannot wear a piece of lead around my neck after I have received the saving sign of Jesus Christ, my Lord, the son of the living God. You do not know Him; yet He suffered for our salvation: God delivered Him up for our sins. He is the one whom all Christians serve; we follow Him as the Prince of Life and Author of Salvation."
Again Dion stated that there are other Christians who are soldiers.

Maximilian answered, "They know what is best for them. I am a Christian and I cannot do what is wrong."

Dion continued, "What wrong do those commit who serve in the army?"

Maximilian answered, "You know very well what they do."

Threatened with death if he remained obstinate, Maximilian answered, "This is the greatest thing that I desire. Dispatch me quickly. Therein lies my glory." Then he added, "I shall not die. When I leave this earth, I shall live with Christ, my Lord."

He was sentenced accordingly: "Whereas Maximilian has disloyally refused the military oath, he is sentenced to die by the sword." 

Just before his execution, Maximilian encouraged his companions to persevere and asked his father to give his new clothes to the executioner.

We are told that Fabius Victor "went home happily, thanking God for having allowed him to send such a gift to heaven."

This account can be found at
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