Are Christian martyrs different?
Ask a Pastor
As Christians, we are awed by the willingness of early through current believers to die for their faith in Christ. What makes Christianity any different from others in this respect? — Dave Anderson
David: Dave, you are right. We all have things we would die for; we all have things that are more important than life itself. Sometimes we call these things our god or our faith or our religion, but sometimes we do not.
When talking about the First Commandment, Martin Luther says: “A ‘god’ is the term for that to which we are to look for all good and in which we are to find refuge in all need. Therefore, to have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe in that one with your whole heart. As I have often said, it is the trust and faith of the heart alone that make both God and an idol” (Martin Luther, Large Catechism, Kolb-Wengert, 2000).
It is the commitment of all of one’s heart that produces the result you describe. Sometimes, our heart is given to God — “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.” Sometimes, we place other things at the center of our heart.
I often ask myself: What would I give my life for? And in so doing, I find my temptations to idolatry.
Elizabeth: People of all faiths and no faith are willing to die for deeply held convictions. The witness of Christian martyrs throughout the ages does not prove the validity of Christianity. In fact millions of faithful, though perhaps less valiant, Christians do not prove the validity or uniqueness of Christianity. Perhaps the question behind the question is “How do we know the Gospel is true?” We cannot by our own effort or understanding come to faith (see Small Catechism) because faith itself is a gift given by the Holy Spirit. This should be good news; we don’t have to prove God or defend God’s existence. It’s not up to us. We can live in simple trust.
Ron: Dear Dave, you are correct in stating that members of individual groups or organizations offer themselves on behalf of a belief system. It seems to me what followers of Jesus are all about is as Matthew 5:16, “let your light so shine before others that they might see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” It is the intent and motivation of a Christian to draw others to the Light.
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