[A note going in: I am a Christian of sorts – meaning I believe without reserve that everything in the Bible is true, and that the God of the Bible never changes. I don’t do things “normal” Christians do, like Easter or Christmas, because I don’t find them in the Bible. I call Jesus “Yeshua,” because that was the name his parents would have called him. Also, I am what many people might consider “intolerant” of other religions. I have never cursed a Muslim, and I have some atheist friends, but I think that only non-religious people claim religions can “co-exist.” Religions with passionate and true followers cannot co-exist; it is the nature of religions to exclude other gods or “ways to heaven.” That is my standpoint – now you know that I am subjective, like everyone else. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy this short essay]
In our American society today (the only society I can really speak about with any degree of confidence), we often praise those who die for what they believe. That’s the paragon of martyrhood in our minds – laying down your life’s blood for your creed. It means you meant what you said, and said what you meant, and are willing to lose your life – lose this great, beautiful world we live in – to prove your sincerity.
In our dreams, our ideal selves are fine with giving up their life to preserve our cherished beliefs, or the life of a friend. Especially in the church, we speak with a kind of wistful awe about martyrs, longing for the same selflessness that led them to their defining actions.
In fact, some of us are truly willing to die for what we believe. Not just in theory, we not only long for the selflessness of the martyr; we actually crave the death of a martyr. Some believe something so strongly, or follow a creed that has altered their lives so radically for the better, that in practice they are prepared to die for it. I am blessed to know many Christians who would be killed if someone held a gun to their head and delivered the ultimatum “Curse God or die.” Because they know that to curse God is to die.
I, too, am ready to die for what I believe. But I think there’s more to martyrhood than dying for your religion.
You also have to live for your religion.
And that’s a little tougher, because living for what you believe is like dying every day – every moment – every time you don’t do what your sinful side wants you to, like Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:31. We may be willing to sacrifice our breath for our dogma, but are we willing to sacrifice good social standing – day after day after day? Maybe we’re okay with being shot for following Christ, but are we okay with giving up sensual pleasures that our God would frown at?
What I’m trying to get to is this: To live is to die. To live for what you believe is hard because it means you die constantly. Physically dying for what you believe is noble and admirable – but you only have to do it once. Living takes more work and passion, because it means unending self-sacrifice.
That also means that you don’t have to be crucified to be a martyr – dying to sin and fleshly pursuits gives you the chance to be a living martyr multiple times a day.
I hope this made you think about your own beliefs a little. Thanks for reading!