"Modern Day Martyrs"           

October 2022 Monthly Meditation

 

Acts 11:26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

 

 

In today’s society we need to ask our selves what it means to be a Christian.  To find that answer we naturally reflect on the early examples of those who followed the path of God. 

 

The first example we need to look at is Christ, who being God, gave up His life so that the entire world could be saved.  Following His death and resurrection, His followers proclaimed His teachings to sacrifice themselves for the well being of others. 

 

These early disciples were called Christians because they followed Christ, the one appointed by God to save the world.  Unfortunately many people opposed the message of Christ and as a result the civil and religious authorities persecuted His followers. 

 

This led to many of the believers to be tortured and killed.  These followers who gave their lives for the Lord are known as martyrs.

 

The word martyr comes from a Greek word, which literally means “someone who gives witness or testimony to someone or something.”  In this meaning it is implied that the martyr has personal experience and knowledge of what is being defended. 

 

We see this in the speech of Stephan the first martyr who proclaims the coming of Christ and how the Jews rejected Him. (Acts 7:52).  The scriptures never mentions Stephan personally meeting Christ before His death, but because of his fundamental understanding of Christ’s message he was able to give his life for its proclamation. 

 

Therefore martyrdom has two facets. 

 

First, it is the divine realization of Christ’s message, to know the Lord on an intimate level. 

 

Secondly, it is the compelling zeal to share this knowledge with the entire world, to be living witnesses of God’s presence in the world and as a witness give our testimony, our statement of belief that Christ did not die in vain but rather He died so that we can all have life. 

 

So in the year 2022 how do we do this? 

 

In our modern day society of toleration of every type of belief ranging from Christianity to witchcraft to secularism, how are we called to be modern day martyrs?

 

To best find an answer to this question we need to first look at the Hebrew language of which Christ was surrounded.  In the Old Testament the Hebrew root word that referred to martyrdom also meant to “repeat something” or “return to something”. 

 

In embracing this dual meaning of martyrdom we see that we are called to return to or repeat the example that we have come to know.  Therefore our martyrdom is to repeat the self-sacrificing way of life that Christ has revealed to us. 

 

So does this mean that we all must physically die here on earth for another human being?  That’s really not the case today, but we also must look at the world around us and ask ourselves, “What do I have to die to in order that my loved ones, my friends and even my enemies can draw closer to God?”

 

Maybe I need to die to my desire for power and control, which smothers the ability of others to grow in the Lord.  Maybe I need to die to my pride, thinking that my way is the only way, which prevents people from seeing God and embracing humility.  Maybe I need to die to the hopeless sorrow I hold onto because of a tragedy in my life, which ultimately does not give others the example of the hopeful joy that in Christ there is life despite all the suffering in the world. 

 

Our modern day martyrdom might not lead to our physical torture but rather to our soul-wrenching search asking ourselves “do we serve our neighbor as Christ served us or are we caught up in a world of selfishness and personal self preservation?”  

 

The church gives us the tools to help us pursue the answers of these questions.  Through prayer, fasting, confession of our sins and serving others, we can assure that our faith is strong and our zeal to be true martyrs is manifested by testifying to the Good News of Christ in the world today.

 

 

May God bless you

 

Pastor Gregory D. Johnson, Ph.D.