Origen: The Stone That Sharpens Us All

Origen: The Stone That Sharpens Us All

In North Africa over 1,800 years ago, young Origen awoke feeling groggy. He pulled his blanket up close and rolled over to go back to sleep. Suddenly, he remembered the events of the night before and jumped out of bed, reaching for his clothes.

However, they were nowhere to be found. Wearing only his nightshirt, Origen rushed to find his mother.

"Mother, has Father returned? And where are my clothes? They're all missing."

His mother replied quietly. "Sit down, Origen. The news about your father is not good. He was arrested last night, and his trial is going on right now. Since everyone who knows your father knows he is a Christian, they will find him guilty and he is sure to face execution."

Origen jumped to his feet. "But Mother, why didn't you wake me? I must join Father. I can't allow him to be martyred alone!" Origen started to rush out of the house, then paused, remembering that he wore only his nightshirt.

"Mother, where are my clothes? I need to join Father as soon as possible."

"Origen, your clothes are not in the house," his mother replied calmly. "I gave them to your uncle. He won't bring them back until it's safe for you to go out."

Origen felt shocked and betrayed by his mother's actions. "Mother, how could you do this to me?" he exclaimed. "I need to join Father right now so we can stand together for our faith. We've both longed to give our lives for Jesus, just as He gave His life for us. How can you stand in my way?"

Tears came to Lydia's eyes as she witnessed her son's bravery. This was harder than she had anticipated.

"Son, I know you love the Savior and want to give everything for Him, but becoming a martyr is not something to be sought. If God asks it of you, then so be it. But what if it is God's plan that you serve Him by living, not by dying?" Lydia's voice cracked as tears flowed down her face.

"Origen, you are a gifted student, and your father has taught you much. You must use your gift to help others understand the faith."

Lydia's words gave Origen much to think about. The Christian faith was misunderstood, and Christians were being persecuted in many parts of the empire. Perhaps God would make a way for him to make a difference.

Weeks later, Lydia and her children watched as the soldiers carried off the last of their possessions. It almost seemed like more than they could bear.

"I'll find a job, Mother," promised Origen. "I'm the oldest, and it's my duty to take care of you."

"But what about your studies?" replied Lydia. "You are not yet ready to take a teaching job. Besides, no one will hire the son of a man who's been executed as a traitor of the Roman Empire. We must find another way."

"It does seem impossible, but nothing is impossible for God," said Origen. "We must pray for His plan to be revealed."

Origen believed God would guide his life. He trusted God to place him where he could best defend Christianity against those who wanted to destroy it. And he was right—God did just that. Origen soon found a wealthy person who provided money for him to finish his education. Finally, Origen was a teacher and could help others learn about faith.

The sun shone brightly overhead as Origen stood watching a few of his students. Lost in thought, he hardly noticed the sun. He frowned as yet another disagreement erupted about Christ's divinity.

Origen shook his head and walked away from the students in frustration. Having taught at Alexandria's Christian school for only a short time, he needed to seek the wisdom of someone else--the man who had appointed him.

"Bishop Demetrius," Origen began earnestly, "May I have a word with you?"

"Ah, Origen, I hear your students are at it again! They argue night and day!"

"That's just it, Bishop. They are only following the example of the scholars who teach them! If the teachers don't agree on the faith, how will the students?"

The bishop was thoughtful. "You are beginning to understand the challenges we face," he replied. "Christianity is so young, and we spend so much energy defending our beliefs to the pagans who don't believe in Christianity. Now the faithful are beginning to argue even among themselves."

Origen agreed. "When I speak with pagans, I expect to defend the faith. But when I'm teaching a group of Christians, I expect them to understand the basic principles of Christianity. They're out there now, disputing yet another issue as we speak! How will we ever get beyond these disagreements?"

Bishop Demetrius looked across the courtyard to where the students stood, arguing. "We do need unity if we are to survive. Someone needs to explain our beliefs so everyone can understand." He smiled at the young teacher. "Someone who is quick to learn and eager to teach. Someone like you, Origen. Perhaps God has appointed you to this task."

Origen thought back to his mother's words. This could be his legacy. He resolved to unify believers by helping them better understand the teachings of Christ.

Though he was only 18 when he took charge of the school in Alexandria, Origen was very dedicated to his work. He studied the Scriptures by night and taught a growing number of students by day. The teacher was also a student, studying closely with modern philosophers so he could defend his faith in a way that they would understand. But Origen was more than a great scholar. When his students and friends were put in prison for their beliefs, he visited them and encouraged them in the faith. He himself was eventually imprisoned and tortured, though he was not martyred.

Origen is best remembered today for his many books defending and explaining Christianity. Because no one had written books on these subjects, some of Origen's ideas were later examined and had to be rejected or modified by Christian scholars. Even so, many of his writings continued to bless the church down through the centuries. He had so much to say that he kept seven secretaries busy recording all of his teachings! He helped Christians identify their beliefs so they could stand for their faith. It seems God had a special job for Origen, and the Lord's protection was with him throughout his life. If Origen had followed his youthful desire for martyrdom, he would have been forgotten, but as he lived for Christ, he became one of the first great theologians of the faith and came to be known as "the stone that sharpens us all."

Make It Real! Questions to make you dig a little deeper and think a little harder.
  1. Origen was eager to serve God in his youth. How can you serve God even though you are young?
  2. Do you think people can be blessed even when bad things happen to them?
  3. "Theology" is a word to describe your basic beliefs. What Christian beliefs are part of your theology?
  4. What beliefs do most Christians share in common?
  5. Why would Origen have the name "the stone the sharpens us all?"
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