In my quest to define, in some small way, what the role of the church should be, I’ve been thinking and praying, trying to flush out what exactly I mean. I found my next step in the form of a book that came in the mail this weekend. I had requested a copy of “Tortured for Christ“, the autobiography of Richard Wurmbrand, a pastor and former prisoner of the Communist-run Romanian government. You would expect a book that focuses on the story of a man imprisoned for his faith to make an impact, but you know you’re in for it when the introduction to a book convicts the mess out of you.
In the intro, the idea of “martyrs” is introduced. Now, today, when that word comes to mind, most of us think immediately of 9-11 and the men responsible (or their like). But do you know that “martyr”, in the original Greek, means “witness?” Hebrews 12:1 and Acts 1:8 both use the word that we translate as witness, originally martyr. The idea is laid out a bit more in the following quote from the book:
“A martyr is one who has become an instrument of God, who has lost his will in the will of God, not lost it, but found it, for he has found freedom in submission to God. The martyr no longer desires anything for himself, not even the glory of martydom.” (pg. 8; a quote of T.S. Eliot)
It’s not necessarily about dying, though it could entail that (like Stephen in Acts 7:54-60). It’s about being a witness with all that you are. It’s about being willing to go to jail for the gospel (something that’s a reality in much of the world, just not (yet) here in America). It’s about laying down your life (your wants, comforts, fears, plans) for the sake of the Gospel and the lost.
To be a martyr, in the Biblical sense, is what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 16:25 when He said “Whoever will save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” It’s about desiring nothing above the will of God. No earthly comfort, fame, fortune, status, benefit, or prize. It’s not about heavenly rewards. It’s about losing your life for the sake of Christ.
For some, that has mean the ultimate sacrifice: loss of life.
But folks, for those of us here in America, lets be real. We’re not there (yet). While it is still day, let’s share the light of the Gospel. For if we won’t share it in the day…the night is coming.
(By the way, if you’re interested, click on the link to the book above. You can find out about the ministry of Richard Wurmbrand, and request a free copy of the book.)