Friday, August 9, 2013

For His Name

"the martyrs of Jesus"
Revelation 17:6

While I'm not a big fan of watching the news, I do like to pay attention to current events.  That can be hard, to stay aware, while avoiding the sensationalistic or yellow. 

One thing that always catches my eye, on TV, online, or in print, is stories of people being persecuted for their faith.  I keep a list of countries where Christians need prayer, or places where friends of mine have gone as missionaries, so that I can continue in prayer for the work they did there.

I also have a few pictures out of magazines, of bombed-out churches.  I hang on to them because I think sometimes I need to be reminded of the lives that others are leading, and how privileged I am to be living in a country where I can worship as I please.

Well along this same line, I came across an article the other day that talked about martyrs.  It was some sort of conference whose goal was to decrease religious persecution around the world.  But apparently there was a disagreement about what exactly constitutes a martyr.  It matters, I suppose, if you are trying to get the United Nations or individual countries to appreciate the magnitude of it, so they'll do something about it.

The definition some were working from was "believers in Christ who have lost their lives, prematurely, in situations of witness, as a result of human hostility" (emphasis mine) which hearkens back to the original meaning of the word martyr, which comes from the Greek word for witness.  

But then others argued about those who were not witnessing, per se.  What about families who are persecuted because one member converts to Christianity?   Can you be a martyr for someone else's faith?  Those at the conference disagreed about whether those people should be considered martyrs. 

Another group summed it up by defining a martyrs as "those who would not have died if they had not been Christian".  But that left others wondering about persecution that does not lead to death.  What about those who suffer disease or malnutrition because they live in areas of war or conflict, based on religion. 

At first glance, this might seem like a silly disagreement.  Shouldn't we be more worried about the martyrs themselves, rather than how to classify them?  But I appreciate that the discussion is being had, that governments and churches and people like me are being reminded that the problem exists. 

But I also am reminded ~ yet again ~ how difficult it is to judge others accurately.  In my mind, a martyr is anyone who suffering in any way, because of their faith.  And that can take all forms.  It can be death, certainly, in a third-world country.  But it can also be an elementary school student, here in America, who is mocked for coming in to school on Ash Wednesday, with ashes on their forehead.  Martyrdom, like sacrifice, takes many forms. 

None of us can ever know what it means for each of us to live out our faith in difficult circumstances.  Indeed, what's difficult for one might not be for someone else.  We need to be praying for strength, for ourselves and for others, and remembering that Jesus Himself died for sake of the truth.

~ "Blessed are those who are persecuted
for righteousness' sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven" ~
Matthew 5:10

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