Phil’s Points to Ponder for May 14, 2017

The story about Stephen’s stoning, Acts 7:55-60, is a hard one to preach about these days. Lately, the idea of martyrdom has fallen under a bit of a cloud, don’t you think? What do you think of when you hear about martyrs? In my experience, a martyr is either reduced to a psychological complex foisted off on someone who does too much for others, or it’s a poor child with a dynamite vest ready to doom himself or herself and plenty of others for the sake of the cause, and the cash benefits paid to the family, after the fact. There’s no question about it. The stock on martyrdom is way, way down these days.

What do you think about it? Would you be willing to become a martyr for the cause of Jesus Christ? Of course, if we are true to our faith, we would not be willing — or able — to take folks with us when we made the sacrifice. Just us, just us for the cause. Just us for the witness to the faith. No one but us and God would know what we are doing. Would you be willing?

This is a fascinating and difficult question. Today, with our young people flung out around the globe in the name of a war on terror, we know that at least some people are willing to give and to take life for a cause. This has been true since the beginning of human history. There is no judgment implied here, but this isn’t the same as being a martyr.

In fact, I would say that the prospect of martyrdom is not illuminated by a question that asks if you’d be willing to die for the cause. My own viewpoint is that the question should be, “Are you willing to live your beliefs without compromise no matter what the cost?” Now there’s a question worth considering.

How deeply are we committed to our Christian faith? How far are we willing to go, not in risking our lives — though that may be the outcome — but rather in living the life of faith fully and completely? What would such a life look like? Where would such a life begin and end? As we prepare to reflect on the strength and witness of Stephen, it might prove helpful for us to think about how far we would be willing to go to stay true to our faith.

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