IT is so easy to be a Christian these days. We have free choice to worship God in any way we desire without worrying about facing death, being censored or jailed. We dont have to hide in basements for secret meetings, or look over our shoulders in fear for our lives the way past Christians did. And so, it is not threatening for us to say we belong to God, that we believe in Jesus. The worst that can happen is the disdainful or pitying looks from those who do not believe. Or perhaps some choice words of disrespect for our choice of faith. In fact, most of us are quite proud to say we are Christians and hope to incur the envy of fellow workers and friends so that they too might believe.
THIS was not always so in past history. Christian martyrs gladly paid the excessive price for the freedom we enjoy today. In Bible history, Steven was the first Christian martyr to die for his beliefs. After taking a determined stand for Jesus in his famous and moving speech(Acts7:2-53) to the Sanhedrin in opposition from its members (dissenters from Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cillicia and Asia) he was taken out and stoned to death. Stephen died in glory. A martyr for Jesus Christ. Witnesses to the execution laid Stephens clothes at the feet of Saul, a strong and mighty protestor against believers in Christ, arresting and putting them in prison. Saul later became a powerful advocate for our Lord Jesus, changing his name to Paul and bringing the Good News to the Gentile nations. Another martyr was James the brother of John put to death by the sword on orders from King Herod, who when he saw this pleased the nonbelievers seized Peter also. Herod put him in prison intending to bring him to trial after Passover. With deep prayer, fellow Christians invoked God to save him. Though shackled and chained between two guards and watched over by 4 squads of 4 soldiers each(Acts12:2), with sentries at the entryway, an angel of the Lord came down and rescued Peter. Interesting to note that all but one of Christs disciples were martyrs. According to tradition Peter was crucified upside down on a cross and Paul was boiled in oil. One cannot find these accounts reported however within the Bible. John, the original disciple of Christ and the only one not martyred, was banned and lived out his life in exile. These are just a few of those who paid a great price for their allegiance to Christ. These Christians wholly trusted in the Lord and proved it unconditionally by "standing up for Jesus" in the face of extreme danger.
I think we should stop and consider how strong our faith really is compared to the martyrs in history. Present day Christians do not fear or feel in jeopardy because of belief in Jesus Christ although most have never really been put to the test. And today we have laws governing our right to religious worship and the freedom to pursue our choice. It has been made easy for us to come to Jesus and acknowledge Him as our personal Saviour without fear of earthly consequence. All we need do is trust Him and follow His teachings and we are usually left in peace to enjoy the wonderful treasures the Father gives to us and all the joys that come with Christianity. We are free to savor our faith and the love of God without repercussions. Unfortunately courage and self denial do not seem a part of our Christianity today. And these are qualities we as catholic Christians should possess in order to strengthen ourselves should we find we have to take a stand for Christ. We believe, but it is almost a childlike or baby belief without the challenges so many other past and even some present day Christians have endured. At best, we are spoiled and self indulgent, taking for granted our freedom to worship.
THE Bible speaks of a time when we shall have to be counted either for or against Jesus Christ in the coming end times. In those coming days martyrdom will be recognized as a distinct possibility for all Christians. Although Jesus was addressing His disciples, I believe Jesus was also speaking to us in (Matt11:17) in which He told His disciples that Christians will be delivered up to those in authority for His sake and brothers will deliver up brothers, mothers giving up their children, children giving up their parents, causing them to be put to death. Christians will be hated for believing in Jesus. And if we do not deny Him there might not be access to food for our families or worse. This will be one of the final appeals of Satan to gain souls away from God.
CHRISTIANS in this day and age can worship without fear. How easily we can go to our places of worship without worry. There are those people who even stand on street corners freely proclaiming the Good News. But the hour may come when we will be tortured or killed for our beliefs. If today uniformed authorities should surround our homes and knock on our doors carrying weapons could we stand up and be counted like Steven, like James, Peter, Paul and all the martyrs throughout the ages? Or would we cower inside and emphatically deny our Saviour? Would we turn in our neighbors, our friends, and even our family in order to save ourselves?
AS Christians in the face of adversity would we ..could we "Stand up for Jesus"?
"Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Fathers and of the holy angels."(Mark8:38) And "Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. (John 12:25)