In my youth, I loved reading the lives of Christian martyrs, often imagining myself to be among their ranks. Today, I am not so sure if I would have the courage to face such a fate. I read about all the Christians being beheaded and massacred by ISIS in the Middle East and all the romantic notions of dying a martyr’s death fizzle out like morning dew before the heat of the rising sun.
Early on, Christians started out as a persecuted lot. And much of Christian history has been written with the blood of martyrs. To our eternal shame, Christians had also been responsible for the death of martyrs from other faiths and even from our own. But the hallmark of Christians through the ages have been their willingness to stand up and give witness and testimony to the truth and good news they proclaim.
There is “wet martyrdom” (when a person sheds blood or is executed for the faith) and there is “dry martyrdom” (when a person suffers every indignity and cruelty but does not shed blood nor suffer execution for his faith). Offered to God, our daily struggles can count as a form of dry martyrdom. This often entails as much courage and strength as wet martyrdom. To stand by one’s principles. To do good when nobody else would. To speak the truth even when it hurts. To move on even when one is engulfed in darkness and depression. Often, the dying is easy and it’s the living that’s hard.
My life has been good. This is not to say that it has been easy. I think I have had enough of life’s tribulations to make for a dry martyrdom. But it is not my martyrdom I take delight in. It is seeing how my sons have stood up for what they believe is right, how they have stood up with and for people dear to them, how they would rather be sad and alone than go against what they hold precious. Like, standing up to the whole class in high school rather than join in a conspiracy of a lie. Or, living with daily heartaches rather than give up on a love commitment. Or, slaving it out at a thankless job 24/7 because somebody has to care for the sick and the dying. God has been good.
Great and wonderful are all your works, O Lord, mighty God!
Jesus said to the crowd:
“They will seize and persecute you,
they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons,
and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name.
It will lead to your giving testimony.
Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand,
for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking
that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.
You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends,
and they will put some of you to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”