What would you give up for your religious freedom? How much does it mean to you to be able to worship freely without government interference?
I’ve started reading a three-book series called the Huguenot Chronicles. I knew precious little about the Huguenots or the time period in which this historical drama was written. The Huguenots were a Calvinist Protestant movement in the 1600’s in France. So you might consider them the ancestors of the Presbyterian Church we know today. There was an agreement, The Edict of Nantes, signed in 1598 by King Henry IV, which granted a great deal of religious freedom to the Huguenots in this predominantly Roman Catholic Country.
The story begins in 1685 with French King Louis XIV. It’s a story about religious freedom and the persecution that faithful Christians have endured, even from other Christian denominations. This is not to condemn another denomination, it is a true story of the suffering that many have endured for the sake of their religious beliefs.
King Louis XIV is trying to unite the country as Roman Catholic which means he needs to get rid of the Protestant Huguenots. He doesn’t want bloodshed; he wants them to convert to Catholicism. The Huguenots were successful businesspeople, landowners, and lawyers. Many of them were upper-class, wealthy bourgeois citizens. They were loyal to the King.
So, King Louis started by trying to coerce abjurations from them. Many saw the writing on the wall, that they were in for a struggle, and abjured, giving up their religious beliefs to become Catholic. The book follows the story of one family, the Delpech family, who would not renounce their Protestant faith. They felt it was giving their souls to the devil.
To make a long story shorter, they were forced to house soldiers in their homes—mercenary soldiers up to 8-10 of them, who were crude, filthy, and about as opposite from the bourgeois Huguenots as they could be. They ate and drank them out of everything they had and sold the household furniture and family heirlooms to get more money for booze and food. After they had exhausted the household valuables they confiscated the businesses, farm land, animals, and whatever else they could sell. If the Huguenots still didn’t relinquish their Protestant faith, the govt. officials split up families, sending the children to catholic convents to be raised Catholic. The parents were sold as servants, imprisoned, or sent to the New World to work as slaves. The Delpech family was split up with the mother escaping to Switzerland and the father being sent to the Caribbean to work. Neither of them would give up their beliefs to ‘live a lie’ as they called it. Many did, and either lived as ‘closet Protestants’ or simply became Roman Catholic.
All this pain and suffering was done to an innocent group of people in the name of religion.
So, what would you give up in the name of your religious freedom? Would you give up your home, income, status, and even your family to hold on to your faith?
All Saints’ Day is our time to remember and recognize those who, throughout the centuries, have given their lives as martyrs of the faith, those who have not compromised their faith nor abandoned their beliefs. They have remained faithful throughout the years and as our Lesson from Revelation 7 proclaims, they are in Paradise, worshipping God, Jesus, and celebrating the Victory over sin and death that Jesus won for all the faithful.
Today, as part of our celebration of those who have gone before us in faith, we also remember those members and friends of Zion who have died in faith since All Saints’ Day last year. We remember that our ancestors in faith are not that different from us. Those we knew and those we mourn were sinners in need of forgiveness and redemption just the same as you and me. We are all sinners and we are all forgiven and redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ as He suffered and died for all believers. Our ancestors in faith weren’t perfect, they had their issues and problems; but they had faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior. The martyrs who die because of their faith in Jesus are also sinners who have been redeemed. No one is above the sinless life of Jesus. That is why our faith in the One who died for us is so important. It is all about Jesus, not us. We celebrate the fact that Jesus has conquered sin and death. We praise Him and worship Him.
We never know what we would be able to endure, or what we might have to give up because of our faith. We have it easy in that respect. We also know that we do not walk alone as we go through life. We will be uplifted, strengthened, and given courage to face the future—whatever it may have in store for us.
If God is for us, who could be against us?