He was about 30 when, walking along the shore, he listened to the liquid thunder of sea and surf. Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes 1:2 described his mood—Nothing makes sense! Everything is nonsense. I have seen it all—nothing makes sense! He had pursued every philosophy, and none of them made sense to him. He had studied the Stoics but wasn’t satisfied. Aristotelianism didn’t fulfill him, nor Pythagoreanism. He found Platonism empty of power. But by the ocean that day he met an old man who gave him a message of profound simplicity: Jesus Christ is Lord. Justin’s life was never again the same.
Justin came from Palestine, born soon after the death of the apostle John. His wealthy, pagan parents had given him a splendid education, and Justin proved brilliant. But though his mind was filled with philosophy, nothing filled his heart. That is, not until he met the old man by the sea sharing the gospel.
Justin immediately began telling everyone that Christ can satisfy both mind and heart. He presented his case for Christianity clearly, defending the gospel so effectively that he is known as one of the church’s first and finest apologists (defenders of the faith). He became a teacher in Ephesus, then moved to Rome and opened a Christian school. He wrote books advancing the Christian message, three of which still survive including a remarkable dialogue with a Jew in Ephesus named Trypho, a survivor of the Bar Kochba War. Justin skillfully explained the reasons Trypho should consider Christianity as a sound and reasonable faith.
In the mid-160s while teaching in Rome, he debated a cynic named Crescentius who held that virtue alone was the goal of life. Justin won the contest so decisively that Crescentius, enraged, apparently reported Justin to the Roman prefect and brought him before the court on charges of atheism—that is, of not believing in the gods of Rome. Justin and several others were condemned, flogged, and beheaded.
He has since been known as Justin Martyr, and his life is remembered every year by the church in both East and West on his feast day, June 1.
Everything you were taught can be put into a few words:
Respect and obey God!
This is what life is all about.
God will judge everything we do,
Even what is done is secret, whether good or bad. (Ecclesiastes 12:13,14)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). June 1.