Posts Tagged ‘martyr’

Martyr has become a dirty word over the last twenty years as Islamic terrorists and extremists have usurped its meaning through rampant suicidal bombings in the name of their God. And yet, even they fit the basic definition: a willingness to suffer or die for a belief or cause. Would I?

Revelation 6:9, 11
When the Lamb broke open the fifth seal, I saw at the foot of the altar the souls of those whose lives had been sacrificed for [adhering to] the Word of God and for the testimony they had borne. . . . [they were] told to rest and wait patiently a little while longer, until the number should be complete of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed as they themselves had been.

And there’s yet another negative definition for martyr, that one who seeks attention by feigning or exaggerating pain. Sometimes, it’s just a person who dramatically takes on the weight of any project with great long suffering. It’s a sham.

How has this word and its intended meanings gotten so distorted?

Of course, not every martyr must die to show his or her strength in following the heart of God. Many are persecuted today in various closed or restricted countries for their faith such as China, Zimbabwe, Eastern European countries like Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, Muslim countries where western faith is scorned, and so on. These men and women are often imprisoned for basic activities such as prayer, bible reading or distribution, and corporate gatherings. Other martyrs are those work with the poor and sick such as Mother Teresa, William Booth (Salvation Army), David Livingstone (Africa), and Corrie Ten Boom [see more]. They are following an inner vision, a knowing that this is the way they must walk.

In John’s time, martyrdom had become a norm for the Christ follower, in fact, persecution and execution continued up through the 4th century until the time of Constantine. These deaths were not the result of a person’s actions, but merely by their affiliation. Other faiths and peoples have experienced this same kind of broad swathe of death, such as the Jews in Russian pogroms and throughout World War II, or the genocide of Rwandan Hutus in 1994 or African-Americans in our country. The list goes on and on.

So, there are two questions in all of this? Would I have the courage to stand for my faith in the face of death? And secondly, why must it be necessary?

In John’s vision, the implication is that more would die. Apparently, that magic number has yet to be reached.

Even in today’s pop culture, there’s this idea that a lover would die for another:

I’d catch a grenade for ya (yeah, yeah, yeah)
Throw my hand on a blade for ya (yeah, yeah, yeah)
I’d jump in front of a train for ya (yeah, yeah , yeah)
You know I’d do anything for ya (yeah, yeah, yeah)
Oh, oh
I would go through all this pain
Take a bullet straight through my brain
Yes, I would die for ya baby
But you won’t do the same . . . [Bruno Mars]

But really, isn’t it all just a type of posturing?

And yet, some men and women do enter the armed forces and put their lives on the line. Perhaps some don’t really believe they will die but others know, the possibility is there and something inside drives them. They are called heroes. It’s an idealism, a sense of sacrifice for the sake of the many, a belief in good and evil. Is my faith so strong?

How many more must die?

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Every endeavor has rules. I hate that. Maybe it’s because I’m a child of the sixties [age-alert] but there’s some part of me that wants to rebel just at the whiff of rules. But why? Why have they become limitations instead of opportunities for excellence?

II Timothy 2:5
Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.

In reality, it’s the rules or the finiteness of the task and the subsequent precision and commitment to working within that framework that separates the good from the great.

When Paul uses a sports analogy, the first sport that comes to my mind is diving. It’s so terribly precise. All those Olympic dives look wonderful to me until it’s replayed in slow motion and the announcer breaks down the movements and compares them to perfect.

I also think of ice skating, skiing, even ballet. The individual, in order to reach excellence, must ascribe to a certain set of standards. Ultimately, it is only after reaching the highest benchmark that rules can be broken or bent for the sake of creativity or experimentation or invention.

I remember, as a child, watching a clown on a high wire and I thought he was crazy to be on a high wire with so little experience. He always looked like he might fall off the wire at any moment. It was funny and scary at the same time. Only later, as an adult, did I learn that the clown must have the most precise technique and confidence in order to “play” on the wire. In the same vein, the jazz artist (whether dance or music) must know the fundamentals thoroughly or the modern artist classic proficiency before improvising.

So, in a way, it’s true, the rules are to be broken, but only after understanding and mastering the space between the rules. Once we learn to color inside the lines, then we can venture out.

Now, what has this to do with my faith in the Christ or serving God? What are the basics or rules of my faith? Isn’t it Christ crucified, resurrected, and engaged in human life thereafter through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to reestablish communion with God? And thereby I can walk out in love, light, truth, justice, and faithfulness because God is forever in our midst: Emmanuel. Yes, and so essentially, to live is Christ (the greatest mystery of all).

If Christ is exalted (manifest) in/through me [Philippians 1:20-21], then I am living loved and loving others, I am a light in dark places [Matthew 5;15], I am faith-filled and faithful [Luke 17:5-6], I am a spokesperson for truth [John 17:17], and, best of all, I can know, recognize and collaborate with the Holy Spirit [I Corinthians 6;19].

From here, I can improvise. I can be the clown for Christ. I can be a fool. I can be martyr. I can be a change agent. I can be human as God always intended.

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