Post by Pastor Tim – I remember being exposed to Voice of the Martyrs at a young age – I didn’t really know much about it, but I remember feeling as if all the martyrdom stories were a little weird. I guess I figured that the important Christian teaching would be taught on a regular basis in my church, and the stuff that Voice of the Martyrs talked about was more of a fringe thing, certainly not a core aspect of the Christian life.
I thought that it was certainly real, but not normal. Not normal in my world, anyway – the world with the nice youth group, good home, comfortable pews, and a 15 minute homily every Sunday that was followed by a lively and joyful coffee hour.
I probably felt a little like Annie Turner who asked in her recent post, “Is anyone else as creeped out by martyrs as I am?”
It’s not that I’m against honoring those who have died being faithful witnesses, like the seven monks in the new French film, Of Gods and Men. After all, martyr comes from the Greek word martys meaning “witness.” I like witnessing to my own faith and try to do so with some regularity without causing people to either drool excessively or fall into comas.
But in the long run, I just don’t get the martyr thing, nor could I do it. It’s the whole idea of “What are we willing to give up for God?” that nags at me. I’d so much rather come down on the side of, What can we give out for God? How can we be more merciful, more compassionate, more understanding, more forgiving? Like that.
Thirty years later my viewpoint has changed a little bit . . . actually quite a bit. I’ve realized that suffering and persecution are actually normal parts of the Christian life – and not just for Christians in places like the Middle East or North Korea.
The Scriptures confirm this in places like 1 Timothy 3:12, where we read that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Or when Jesus says in John 15:20, “if they persecuted me they will also persecute you.”
Not only do the Scriptures confirm this, but faithful Christians throughout the centuries do as well. Over 100 years ago, Henry Drummond, scientist and close personal friend of D.L. Moody captured this sentiment well when he said,
Every man who lives like Christ produces the same reaction upon the world. This is an inevitable consequence. What men said of Him, if we are true to Him, they will say of you and me. The servant is not above his master. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.
So maybe coffee hours, church youth groups, and 15 minute homilies are really what’s weird and creepy. Not Christians who are living out their faith in such a way that it attracts persecution. Not Christians who are proclaiming the gospel despite the fact that they could be imprisoned. Not Christians who are giving up their lives for the sake of being a witness for Christ.