Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Martyrdom: What's Worth Dying For?

He knew what he was doing was dangerous. He had a hunch that those young men who had come to ask about the faith were not sincere, that they might betray him.

But he told them everything he could about the Prophet Jesus, anyway.

He didn't know they'd come back to torture and kill him for being - as they saw it - a traitor to his people, a traitor to Islam.

A few weeks ago I heard his wife tell the story in broken English.

She spoke of how she went to the morgue and prayed over his body: in the name of Jesus, come back! But the Holy Spirit said to her, she said, and let him go.

Later, she talked to God about it again. God said. They might seem like harsh words but she was comforted.

The story had a high profile. Because a Westerner was also killed it was an international incident. That brought opportunities to publicly seek and receive support, to share stories about the men's lives and convictions, to express forgiveness to the guilty.

She and her children sought asylum in another country, leaving their own - another loss.

I've been following the stories of two other Christians who have been condemned to die for their faith, this time under the rule of law rather than at the hands of vigilantes. Looks like Asia Bibi, a Pakistani woman, will be pardoned.

Time is ticking down for Pastor Youcef Nadarkani of Iran. “As you want me to give up Christ and otherwise have to die, then I simply have to die,” he says. His attorney is in the process of appealing to the supreme court, and others are praying and working to see the death sentence overturned.

Sometimes international pressure helps save the lives of those persecuted and condemned for their faith, but only if things go slow enough and there's a system of law in place and susceptible to such influences. Most martyrdom is secret and hidden. Justin Long writes about that in Martyrdom Down, Persecution Up?

It seems that suffering is something that comes with the territory, hard as that is for the American mind to accept. Jesus said it would be like this. Something to bear in mind, says Justin: Even if you are working in relative freedom now, any strategy that falls apart in the context of persecution isn’t a strategy that is likely to endure.

And this applies outside the realm of faith as well: Any strategy designed only for times of prosperity, for favorable conditions, but without provision for disaster and opposition? It may go down like the Titanic. 

See also: The Most Effective Strategy (April 18, 2009) and Worried about Hail Damage? (September 16, 2010).

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