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Not all Martyrs are Created Equal

Martyr is a word we probably don’t hear or use every day.  What comes to your mind, when you hear or see the word martyr? 

At first, my mind took me back to the days of the Reformation.   For the first time, people were starting to have access to the Bible in their own language.

Some Christians began to follow the lead of people like Luther and Calvin and turned to the Bible for answers instead of following establish church traditions.  In short, many people who parted company with what was then a very corrupt Roman Catholic Church were put to death.

The Martyrs of the Reformation gave their lives up for the truth of God’s Word.

To really understand martyrdom, we need to go the whole way back to Jesus.  In John 18, as Pilate was questioning Jesus, this exchange is recorded:  “ Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered,“You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

In bearing witness to the truth, Jesus laid down His life for the truth of God.  Most of His disciples met with similar grizzly deaths for refusing to abandon the truth they received from Jesus.

Over the centuries, many Christians have been put to death for refusing to give up on the truth of Jesus.

Still today, Christians suffer persecution & even death for upholding the truth of God as proclaimed by Jesus.  See The Voice of the Martyrs.  Even here in America, times for Christians aren’t great.   Political correctness is practically the law of the land.  Military Chaplains are no longer allowed to pray in the name of Jesus.

The meaning of martyrdom has drifted in modern times.  The Free Dictionary offers a second definition (without death) for the word martyrOne who makes great sacrifices or suffers much in order to further a belief, cause, or principle.  So, in our society, someone can make a martyr of themselves by simply standing their ground for a cause or movement that violates norms or laws of society.

For example, someone could be regarded as a martyr for being arrested and jailed for some act of “civil disobedience.”   If I were a Military Chaplain, one way or another, I would be on my way out.

I can admire someone who stands up and takes the heat that goes along with standing firm for the truth of God.  But, what about those who exchange the truth of God for a lie, and take some action to make a “modern martyr” of themselves?

At best, this kind of behavior would cheapen martyrdom to the level of a PR stunt, along the lines of the “Occupy” movement.

At its worst, dying for a lie is what inspires people to fly airplanes into buildings.

Jesus embodied the truth.  His truth is the only truth, and thus the only one worthy of self-sacrifice.

In a world of confusion, truth matters.