For the sake of God we must endure all things, so that he will endure us
Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to Polycarp, who is bishop of the Church of the Smyrnaeans, or rather has God the Father as bishop over him, together with the Lord Jesus Christ –
I was struck by the godliness of your mind — anchored, it seems, on immovable rock — and I rejoice that it that it was granted me to see your blameless face (may God give me joy of it). I exhort you to press forward on your journey in the grace with which you have been clothed; and you should exhort all men to gain salvation. Perform your office with all diligence of body and spirit. Strive for unity, for there is nothing better. Help all men, as the Lord also helps you; suffer all men in love (indeed, you are doing this). Pray unceasingly. Beg for wisdom greater than you already have, be watchful and keep the spirit from slumbering. Speak to each person individually, just like God himself, and like a perfect champion bear the infirmities of all. The greater the toil, the greater the gain.
It is no credit to you if you simply love the good among your disciples; seek also to tame the more troublesome by your gentleness. Remember that not all wounds are healed in the same way — where the pain is acute, apply soothing poultices. Be prudent as the serpent in all things but always harmless as the dove. This is why you are both body and spirit — so that you can deal tenderly with the things which appear visibly and pray that the invisible things may be revealed to you. Thus you will lack nothing and abound in every gift. These critical times have need of you, as a ship needs a helmsman and the storm-tossed sailor needs a harbour. Be strict with yourself, like a good athlete of God. The prize is immortality and eternal life, as you know. I offer myself up as a sacrifice on your behalf — myself and these chains which you yourself have kissed.
Do not be caught off balance by those who plausibly teach perverse doctrines. Stand firm as an anvil under the blows. The task of great athletes is to suffer punishment and yet conquer. But especially must we endure all things for the sake of God, that he also may endure us. Increase your efforts and watch for opportunities. Look out for the one who is above time and has no need for opportunities: the Invisible who became visible for us, the Intangible who is above suffering and yet suffered for us, who in every way endured for our sake.
Make sure that the widows are not neglected. Make yourself their protector, deferring only to the Lord. Let nothing be done without your approval, and continue to do nothing yourself without God. Be steadfast. Hold services more frequently and call everyone to them by name. Do not be haughty to slaves, either men or women but do not let them be proud; rather, let them endure slavery to the glory of God so that God may give them a better freedom than man. Let them not enslave themselves to their own longings and demand to be set free at the Church’s expense.