She was young, just a teen. He waved his weapon in her face.
“Are you a Christian?” he hissed.
She paused. Would she choose life or death? She straightened her shoulders, and her eyes locked on his.
“Yes. Yes, I’m a Christian.”
He pulled the trigger.
It seems we hear stories like this more often these days–from Columbine to Kenya, from schools to shopping malls, and even to beaches. Men and women, old and young, are called to face down fear and stand for faith. Jesus freaks.
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil toward you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” ~ Matthew 5:10-12
I’m okay with the happy dances in the preceding verses. Here, though, not so much.
Fact: If we accept our spiritual poverty and mourn and hunger and thirst and commit to follow Jesus, “they” will come after us. If we bring comfort, we’ll make others uncomfortable. If we make peace, we’ll stir up trouble. If we love, “they’ll” hate us.
“If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:20)
“Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12)
“For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” (Philippians 1:29)
Fact: Suffering proves we belong to the kingdom. That should make us happy enough to do a happy dance.
If we’re not suffering, even subtly, maybe we need to reassess our commitment.
None of the disciples escaped. All but John were killed in the end–beheaded, crucified, stoned, clubbed, or stabbed, and John may have survived a pot of boiling oil.
All stood faithful to the end, though in the beginning they possessed little faith and a whole lot of scared.
The early church paid a price for faith. From lion food to torches. From racking to roasting
Today Christians are hacked and burned, tortured and raped, beheaded and crucified. Homes are burned, families shattered, jobs lost.
When John the Baptist sat in prison, what Max Lucado calls his “dungeon of doubt” (The Applause of Heaven), he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask Him if He really was the Expected One. And Jesus sent word back of those who now saw and heard. Of those cleansed and those who lived. Of good news preached to the poor.
Of the unacceptable now accepted. Of the rejected now received. Of the devalued now valued.
In Acts 1:8 Jesus said, ” . . . you shall be My witnesses . . . to the remotest part of the earth.”
The Greek word for “witnesses” is “martys.” A spectator of something in a historical or a legal sense. But it also means “those who after his example have proved the strength and genuineness of their faith in Christ by undergoing a violent death.”
The book, Jesus Freaks, gives these definitions of a martyr:
1. One who chooses to suffer death rather than to deny Jesus Christ or His work.
2. One who bears testimony to the truth of what he has seen or heard or knows, as in a witness in a court of justice.
3. One who sacrifices something very important to further the kingdom of God.
4. One who endures severe or constant suffering for their Christian witness.
5. A Jesus Freak.
There’s a cost to leaving our dungeons of doubt and following Jesus. There’s a cost to living for Him, to living like Him, to being “People of the Cross.”
While we might not be called to martyr our lives, we’ve got to martyr our comfortable ways of life and pull the trigger on our own selfishness. We’ve got to be willing to be different, to see how God sees so the world can see Jesus. We’ve got to count the cost of discipleship to be His witnesses–to be his martys.
May we, may I, be faithful to the end for the One who is faithful to the end.
Question for you: Have you suffered persecution in any form? What in your comfortable life will you martyr today?
Post resurrected from the archives and edited to share in community with The High Calling’s theme, “Called to the Firing Line.”
In the stillness,