The martyr's death

by La Shawn Barber

Posted on Wednesday, October 22, 2014, at 5:26 pm

“How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:10, NKJV)

Only God knows the appointed time, place, and method of our death. I occasionally joke with my family about wanting to go out as a hero, stopping a terrorist and saving thousands of lives, pushing a child from the path of an oncoming car, stepping in front of a bullet meant for someone with young children to raise.

But what about a martyr’s death? I rarely think about it. Christians in Muslim countries certainly do. Asia Bibi, a Roman Catholic and Pakistani mother of five, is sentenced to die for insulting Muhammad while arguing with a Muslim woman in Pakistan. “I’m not going to convert,” she told the woman. “I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Muhammad ever do to save mankind? And why should it be me that converts instead of you?” Bibi denied her words were “blasphemy.” Last week, an appeals court upheld her death sentence.

One day, American Christians might have to deal with something similar. A disgruntled Muslim beheaded a woman, on American soil, after he was fired for arguing about stoning women. The difference between Pakistan and the United States is that our government doesn’t recognize blasphemy. Or does it? The City of Houston recently demanded that pastors there turn over sermons that mention the sin of homosexuality (but not the sins of lying, adultery, or murder), because of a lawsuit involving a non-discrimination ordinance. The city rescinded the demand, but this is how it begins. As the homosexual lobby continues to use government force to stifle dissent (secular blasphemy?) and punish people of faith for refusing to accept and celebrate sexual deviancy, American Christians will face our own form of persecution.

Whether persecution is here or abroad, the Apostle Peter says we’re blessed when reproached in Christ’s name. Though unbelievers might curse Him and ridicule us, God is glorified in it. Suffer not as “a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters,” but as an unashamed Christian. Dying for the faith is a noble death.

Acts records the death of Stephen, who the Jews accused of blasphemy. God gave the faith’s first martyr a glorious and comforting vision of heaven, in which he saw Christ standing at the right hand of the Father. (May God grant all Christians about to die for their faith such a vision.) Before his stoning, Stephen recounted the story of God’s covenant with Abraham, the patriarchs in Egypt, the Exodus, and the rebellion in the desert, which paralleled the Pharisees’ rejection of Christ in Stephen’s time.

A witness to this stoning was Saul, an enemy of the faith who became the Apostle Paul and saved and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the Roman Empire. God weaves His divine narrative and purpose through every event in the world, and the martyr’s death is part of it.

La Shawn Barber

La Shawn is a former WORLD columnist.

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