Walking briskly, a sturdy man with an ax in hand approached an enormous oak tree. Onlookers watched, hoping to triumph over this pesky man who disrupted their idolatry centered around this oak tree. Lifting the ax, the man took in a deep breath and swung hard at the tree, making only a small niche on the side of the thick trunk. However, a great wind suddenly blew upon the tree and it crashed to the ground, splitting into four pieces. Viewing this as a sign from God, the pagans repented of their sin and believed in Jesus Christ their Savior.
Towards the end of the “early church” era, Boniface worked to establish the beginning of a church in northern Europe, from Germany to the Netherlands.
From an early age, Boniface desired to serve the Lord with his life. Even when his father tried to dissuade him from joining a monastery, Boniface remained steadfast. While still a boy, he joined a Benedictine monastery, and the monastery ordained him a priest by the time he was middle-aged. As a young man, he felt called to Frisia and twice attempted to reach them with the gospel. However, God still needed to prepare Boniface before he proceeded to his time in Frisia.
Traveling to Rome after rejecting a position as bishop of a monastery, Boniface met the pope of the Roman Catholic Church. Receiving a good word from Pope Gregory II and promising to practice Christianity the Roman Catholic way, Boniface journeyed to Frisia to begin his ministry.
As a Benedictine monk, Boniface naturally established monasteries in Frisia and the surrounding regions, such as Germany and France, to further spread the gospel. During the 7th and 8th centuries, Charles Martel, ruler of the Franks, offered protection for Boniface and his ministry. Perhaps because of this protection, Boniface convened many synods in the region to set standards for the practices of the monasteries and churches he established.
Over the years, Boniface met with many troubles. He dealt with differences between himself and Irish missionaries who had previously worked in the area. Often bossy, Boniface did not react gently to people who differed from his views and excommunicated the Irish missionaries who did so. Although he certainly believed what he did was right, Boniface allowed his anger at differences between himself and the Irish missionaries’ way of practicing Christianity to overrule their common inheritance in Christ.
Finally, after a fulfilling life working in Northern Europe, Boniface, like many early Christians, was martyred, exchanging his earthly body for a heavenly one.
From the life of Boniface, Christians learn the importance of missions. Christ commands Christians to spread the gospel to the utter ends of the earth, and Christians must obey this command. God calls Christians to different ways of sharing the gospel, whether going to a foreign land or remaining at home and ministering there. However, the purpose remains the same–extol Christ in His glory. By ministering wholeheartedly to bring Frisians to Christ, Boniface demonstrated a life devoted to the glory of Christ in all the nations.
How should Christians react to differences in theology or practice? First and foremost, Christians must remember that there is one church: the Bride of Christ. While differences in theology and practice are a part of belonging to a certain denomination or church, Christians must remember that Christ sees only one church in the world, His ransomed sons and daughters. However, false teachers will seep into the church, trying to undermine basic doctrines that all Christians uphold such as salvation, sanctification, the death and resurrection of Christ, or the Trinity. False teachers should be corrected and refuted when they err, but if they continue to deviate from basic doctrines and cause disruption in the church’s fellowship, the Bible calls Christians to exclude them from the church and communion. Despite the threat of false teachers, Christians must not hate or judge their fellow brothers and sisters across denominations and churches but instead worship the Almighty King in one spirit.
Aherne, Consuelo Maria. “Saint Boniface: English Missionary.” Encyclopædia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Boniface.
“Boniface: Apostle of Germany.” Christianity Today, http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/martyrs/boniface.html.
Willibald. The Life of St. Boniface. Fordham University, https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/basis/willibald-boniface.asp.
Photo credit: Saint Boniface. Engraving by H. Kipp after K. Clasen.