Monday, January 5, 2009

Is Martyrdom Normative to Christianity?

Or should it be?, I guess I'm asking.

Jonathan Brink highlights a book that changed his life called Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire.

For some reason it reminded me of a stray thought I had while, of all things, smoking a cigar and watching my girls play in my in-laws' big backyard: What if Jesus' design for the life of discipleship necessitated martyrdom?

I began to think of all the early followers. All martyred. They literally took up their crosses, which I think is closest to what Jesus meant by "Take up your cross" anyway. (Or at least, actually dying for Jesus is closer to its meaning than, say, putting up with an irritating coworker.)

A few months ago an Iranian immigrant -- a recent convert to Christianity -- visited Element's public small group and casually mentioned that if she goes back home they will kill her. It was like the weight of eternity had pushed out all our by-comparison petty concerns about the annoying boss and the inconsiderate neighbor.

Paul placed a premium on suffering, not in a masochistic way (although it can sound like that to our comfortable modern ears), but in a this-makes-you-like-Jesus way.

When I read Revelation it is the martyrs I see being highlighted. (This is more significant if you don't believe the "tribulation" is a literal 7 year thing right at the end of days, but rather representative of the current age.)

I'm not saying I want to suffer. Nobody in their right mind would want to.
But Bible Belt Christianity is so freaking comfortable, I don't know if any of us really know what "To live is Christ, to die is gain" really even means. It sure doesn't mean taking a stand to keep "God" in the Pledge of Allegiance or whatever.


nAncY said...

i am beginning to understand an old saying in my life.

it is easier to talk the talk than to walk the walk.

nhe said...

our daughter came to us a few years ago (at age 18) and asked us - "shouldn't all Christians anticipate that they may be martyred? - it seems obvious from the New Testament" - not something you want your daughter to feel deeply in her soul, but we couldn't argue with her.....this actually is a compelling devotional thought that deserves a lot more pondering.