The Only Martyr’s Death Worth Dying


'The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer' by Jean-Léon GérômeChristians in the United States are increasingly alarmed at the rise of the martyrdom of fellow believers across the world. When dying for our faith comes to our own shores, it’s even more troubling.

Jesus said this:

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”
—John 15:18

We often think of the tossing of Christians to the lions in ancient Rome when we think of being hated for the Faith.

A list of Christian faith and practice that drew the attention of the Romans:

  • Rapidly spreading the Faith throughout Rome
  • Caring for infants otherwise left to die
  • Caring for the sick, infirm, and elderly
  • Affording women rights ordinarily not given to them
  • Expressing monotheistic beliefs about the nature of God

Only one of the above, though, convinced Roman leaders to send Christians to die a martyr’s death in the Colosseum.

Today, the following beliefs and practices of Christians in the United States raise the ire of those who might hate us:

  • Espousing a pro-life / anti-abortion stance
  • Supporting conservative politicians and politics
  • Opposing same-sex marriage
  • Making wild predictions about End Times
  • Opposing permissive cultural mores

Can you spot the telling difference between the two lists?

What got Christians martyred in Rome? Their monotheistic view of God. It was how Christians depicted the nature of God that Roman leaders saw as an immediate threat. The other factors may have contributed, but they were not the final cause. (I would recommend Rodney Stark’s The Triumph of Christianity for further details.)

Today, fellow believers in other countries are martyred for the same reason as ancient Christians in Rome. Consider too the message of the apostles. It was their view of who God is, talking about Jesus, and putting Him above all else that enraged others enough to kill them.

If you and I must die a martyr’s death, the only real martyrdom, the only genuine reason to die for the Christian faith, is the person of Jesus. Be hated because we believe Jesus Christ is Lord.

Being hated for anything on that second list is not the point. Being hated for being opinionated about social issues, or voting for conservative politicians, or for homeschooling, or for anything else that is not Jesus is not martyrdom for the Faith.

Meditate on that earlier Bible verse for a moment.

I write this today because of my concern that we may be unclear on this. The way we talk about why people might hate Christians has little to do with the person of Jesus Christ and what we think about Him. Instead, it seems to be about our opinions on everything else.

There’s enough scandal in the person of Jesus and what He said and did to rock anyone’s world. But, in the United States, is Jesus truly the primary reason people hate Christians? If not, then we need to change the focus of our rhetoric.

One day, if they do come us, let’s ensure we die for the right reason.

Quote about Evangelicalism & Theology Nails It


Mark Strom

“Evangelicals have benefited enormously from the faithful and creative labors of many theologians. I certainly acknowledge that for myself. But there are other less acknowledged sides to the story of theology:

– its inability to connect with everyday concerns;
– its use to patronize and disdain others;
– its role in propping up an elitist system of leadership;
– its deadening effects on young theological students;
– its promotion of pedantry and destructive debate;
– its second-hand character that minimizes genuine creative and new perspective;
– the ways it imposes law in the name of protecting grace;
– the ways it preempts and gags conversations that might otherwise break new ground in integrating faith and life.

“There is great value in laying a foundation of beliefs. But the methods and disposition of theology have failed to deliver its promise of a richer personal knowledge of God. Theology and church have by and large abducted the conversations that rightfully stand at the heart of the gathering.”

Reframing Paul: Conversations in Grace & Community by Mark Strom (IVP, 2000), p. 125

(Hat tip: Rob Wilkerson)

While that quote may be 15 years old, I believe the issue still exists, and in the form that Strom critiques.

We need theology. How should we teach and practice it in our churches and schools?

Your comments appreciated.

The Virtue of Being Slow to Speak


Gagged and silencedOne of the ways social media may harm the Church (and society as a whole) occurs when Christians rush to comment on news stories and issues of social importance.

As I noted in my previous post, America’s Greatest Sin—And How It Sets the Stage for the Antichrist, we are obsessed to our detriment with novelty in America. If it’s new, it draws us. For Christians, though, being the first in line or first on the bandwagon is likely not a good thing.

The Ahmed Mohamed story blew up (no pun intended) this past week and incited much commentary on the Web, with people quickly choosing sides.

What disturbed me about this case is that we commented as if we had insider info about conversations that happened between the principals of the story: Ahmed, teachers, and police. We spoke as if we knew what was said that led to this young man’s handcuffing.

Problem is, we didn’t know. As more facts come in, it’s clear that more is going on than was initially known or reported.

I later read a screed that polluted further conversation about this case by examining the boy’s father’s past and drawing negative conclusions from that man’s run for president of Sudan and opposition to a Koran-burning pastor.

The problem there is the genitive fallacy, a logical fallacy that mistakenly draws conclusions based on a person’s past positions or allegiances and not on the facts at hand.

I also question Christians when we accuse someone of a response that if the situation were reversed and the Christian accuser were put in the place of the accused, the Christians would cry, “Persecution!” Could you and I be accused of the same thing we’re accusing someone else of? If so, how would we react to that accusation? Why would it be OK for us to react negatively and not the person we’re accusing? The Golden Rule applies to speech too.

Lastly, it’s September, the most active month for Christians making outlandish (and perpetually wrong) eschatological predictions. Christian obsession with the Jewish holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that fall in this month means talk of doom, Rapture, more doom, and all manner of end-of-the-world predictions and visions.

Sigh. I am burned out of Christians doing the following:

1. Using logical fallacies to persuade

2. Rushing to promote some new End Times prediction by the latest hot “prophet”

3. Speaking without having all the facts

4. Condemning others using arguments that would cause outrage if the tables were turned

5. Not thinking long and hard before speaking

The Bible states we are ambassadors for Christ. A major characteristics of an ambassador is carefully choosing words so as to promote rational discussion of difficult issues, with a focus on creating peaceful outcomes that benefit all sides.

Can we Christians in America today say this is how we speak?

If we cannot—and I firmly believe we can’t—perhaps we should not be speaking at all. At least not until we have pondered and prayed over all the facts and can then speak in the way that an ambassador for Christ should. Seriously, we know many of the verses with which God chastens us concerning our speech. Are we obeying ANY of them? Do a study on what the Bible says about this topic. It’s a huge undertaking, believe me, because how we communicate with others is of great importance to God

In an age of social media, how must the Church speak and yet not appear uninformed, angry, hasty, or deaf? How do we operate as ambassadors of Christ in what we say, both in person and online?

Something to consider for this week and the days to come.