Recently Robert Kirby writing for The Salt Lake Tribune published an odd article. He asked, “Would I denounce my faith to save my neck?” He answered his own question, “You bet, in a heartbeat.” He went on to suggest Jesus would be disappointed in someone who died for his faith, and to do so is a waste.
Stephen did not feel that way. He was the first Christian martyr recorded in Scripture. He would be followed by many more throughout the history of the church. Most of the apostles would seal their testimony of the Gospel and resurrection of Christ with their blood.
If the apostles had stolen the body of Christ as some claim to fake the resurrection, does it make sense they would spend the remainder of their lives suffering ostracism, persecution and death for something they knew was a lie? Their willingness to spread the Gospel and message of Christ’s resurrection at their peril without ever recanting is strong evidence they bore witness to something they experienced, something they could not deny.
After the execution of Christ and being his closest followers, they feared they would be next. But the resurrection of Christ was a game-changer. Their willingness to fearlessly defy the religious leaders command to stop preaching Christ crucified and risen stamped the seal of truth on what they proclaimed. Their boldness breathed life into the fledgling faith.
I do not know how each of us would respond if our loved ones or ourselves were threatened with death unless we disavowed Christ. It is a hypothetical easily answered, but not so easily lived. But I do not think those who threatened my family or myself with death unless I recanted, could be counted on to keep their promise. They could kill you anyway out of a sadistic sense of pleasure. One could recant with nothing gained. Still, most of us would be desperate enough to try.
I am sure some would think, “discretion is the better part of valor,” that is, it is unwise to risk one’s life for a belief, better to live and testify another day. But we will all die one day, and I think if what I am living for, is not worth dying for, then it is not worth living for.
Jesus said, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matthew 16:25-26.
Jim Elliot died on the mission field sharing the Gospel. He said, “No man is a fool who gives up what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.” Maybe putting our life on the line for what we believe is not a waste after all.