Christian martyrdom is not something Americans give much thought to in their daily lives. Despite our secular culture, we still live in a nominally Christian nation. There is no real persecution of Christians in America. We can still attend the church of our choosing. We can pray in public, and our tithing is tax deductible.
Our comfort shields us from the plight of Christians in other countries. In Europe, post-Christian nations are passing laws promoting abortion and euthanasia. Hostility to Christianity in Africa and the Middle East is at a fever pitch. In those lands Christian martyrdom is much more likely.
It’s easy in America to be complacent about our religious freedom. I had a reminder of this when I read a story on an Orthodox Christian message board.
Mocking Christian Martyrdom
The story came from a recently baptized Orthodox Christian. After the young man’s baptism, people referred to him by his given name instead of his baptismal name. This upset one elderly lady in the parish.
“I don’t know a Charlie anymore,” the woman said. “Everyone here just watched him die! I only know a Nicholas now.”
It was quaint that an old woman raised Orthodox would take such offense. Not holding a baptismal name in high regard wasn’t a big deal, I thought. But one commenter on the message board did not find it funny.
“You think this is a laughing matter?” he asked. “People have died for this.”
At first I was taken aback when I read this rebuke. Can’t this guy take a joke, I thought. It’s just a cute story about a sweet old lady that has some outdated customs. Nobody is dying for taking on a church name.
Then I remembered that people had just died for these very things.
Christian martyrdom is not some antiquated relic of the Roman Empire. People are dying right now for proclaiming that Christ is risen. They live in daily fear of death for something we take so lightly. The Church is producing new martyrs in places where believing in Christ is a death sentence.
For American Christians, the cross of Christ is a fashion accessory. Our choice of church is a status symbol. While African Christians hide their faith in public, we advertise the size of our projection screens and praise bands.
What is our idea of persecution? Not getting to have a monument to the Ten Commandments in our courthouse. The oft-repeated claim that someone, somewhere wants to remove In God We Trust from our money.
This is not to say that our society and our government isn’t more and more anti-Christian. There may yet come a day when we see American Christians singled out for hardships. The government may tax our churches. Our ability to engage in commerce might be hindered. Believers in Christ should at the least contemplate the possibility of Christian martyrdom.
That day is not upon us in America. But it is happening right now in other parts of the world. We have to take our faith seriously in times of comfort, if it is to be of any use in a time of trial.
People have died for what we believe. They are dying still.
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