Seeking Martyrdom
4 November 2013
My recent article No Defense For Christian Self-Defense seems to have struck a raw nerve, judging by the two negative comments left by readers of that article. Now, two negative comments does not sound too bad, but you have to put it into context. First, I have not received any positive comments on the article. Second, these are the only two comments left for all 94 articles on this Web site, as of the time of my writing this.

My last article — The Danger of Shallow Roots — was written in response to the first comment. Because what I wrote there is directly related to what I will be sharing in today's article, you should take a little detour and read it now before you continue here.

The second comment, from an anonymous "Jan" is as follows. It starts off with a quote from my No Defense For Christian Self-Defense article:
"It is a glorious honor to suffer and die for the sake of Yeshua and the Gospel" So why aren't **you** on the first plane out to Nairobi, so you can stand shoulder to shoulder with your fellow Kenyan Christians, ready to be slaughtered, for the glorious honour of suffering and dying for the sake of Yeshua and the Gospel? I'll tell you why, because you are a sickening Pharisee, coward, and hypocrite, and a self-righteous moron, to boot.
The first thing to note about this comment is a common phenomenon which you see on many Web sites: When someone does not have any good counter-arguments, they resort to name-calling. Because I am writing articles which explain what the New Testament teaches, I am now a "sickening Pharisee, coward, and hypocrite, and a self-righteous moron" — well, whoop-dee-doo! Ain't that somethin'?

OK, now that that's out of the way, we can turn our attention to more serious matters. Because I wrote in that previous articles (and other articles as well) that "it is a glorious honor to suffer and die for the sake of Yeshua and the Gospel," Jan wants to know why I am not traveling to Kenya so I can experience this glorious honor for myself, rather than sitting here safely in America and urging Christian in Kenya to let themselves be martyred rather than obtain weapons and fight back against their attackers. This is a very good question, which I will address in the remainder of today's article.

From the words and tone of these two comments, it is apparent that the idea of suffering and dying for the sake of Yeshua and the Gospel is very difficult for many Christians to accept — and for non-Christians it is pretty much impossible. You can't expect non-Christians, who are still unregenerated in their spirits, to understand spiritual truths, because, as the Apostle Paul explained, they are not understood by the human intellect, but by the regenerated human spirit (see 1 Corinthians 2:13-16).

The first reader who commented, "ecosse14," identified him/her-self as a Christian, while it's hard to tell for sure from the wording of the comment from "Jan." If they are Christians, then they seem to be in a state of spiritual dullness and/or blindness, so that they can't understand the truth of what is written in the New Testament even when it is right before their very eyes. Such people are following the traditions of man rather than the Word of God. As I have written numerous times before, using violence for self-defense had its purposes in Old Testament times, and is still widely practiced today by pagans and "Christians" alike, but it has no place in New Testament teaching.

The essence of Christianity is for human beings to have an intimate, personal relationship with Father God. Once we submit our lives to Yeshua, our human spirit is regenerated (or, as Yeshua said in John 3:3-7, "born again"). In a mysterious way known only to God, His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, takes up residence inside of us in union with our spirit.

You may ask, "How can a part of God be in me?" As limited humans, we don't know exactly how this works, but I think there is a good analogy which can help us understand. Just for the sake of this analogy, think of God as air. This is, in fact, the very analogy Yeshua used in John 3:8 when explaining what it's like when a person is "born again."

The air is all around us, but we don't see it, even though we can feel its effect or presence at times. The air, like God Himself, can be thought of as omnipresent — the air is in Japan and Argentina and Switzerland and Iran and everywhere else on earth, all at the same time. It's all air, and it's present everywhere.

But not only is it "out there," it is also "in here." I breathe in the air, and it comes inside of me. Not only does it come inside my lungs, but from there is it distributed through the blood to every cell in my body. The air is truly inside of me, down to that cellular level! In addition, you can be standing next to me, and you can breathe in the very same air I am breathing, and it can be inside of you just as intimately as it is inside of me. It can be inside both of us at the same time.

The air can be inside every human being and every breathing animal, all at the same time, giving all of us life at the same time. And yet it is still all around us as well. Without the air I would die in just a few minutes. And yet, even though the air in so intimately inside of me, it is still all around me, and all around everyone, and all around the world. Just like the air, God is all around us. "In Him we live and move about and exist." (Acts 17:28) Just like the air, He can be inside of us as well — inside each of His regenerated children, all at the same time, without diminishing Himself in any way.

Of course, no analogy is perfect, and if pushed too far even the best one will break down. Nevertheless, analogies do serve a vital role in our grasp of hard-to-understand concepts. Now let's consider one of the differences between the air and God. In the natural realm, all human beings can breathe in the air. In the spiritual realm, only those humans who have been "born again" are able to spiritually "breathe" in the Spirit of God, and have God's Holy Spirit inside of them in that intimate way.

Now, here is an interesting fact you may not know about. In the Greek language, in which the New Testament was originally written, the Greek words for "breath" and "wind" and "spirit" are the very same word: pneuma. This amazing "coincidence" makes the analogy between air/breath and God's Spirit much more vivid and meaningful!

The Bible is not merely a list of instructions for us to follow apart from intimate relationship with God. Daily interaction with God — talking to Him and listening to Him — is how we receive His instructions for our lives. He often uses verses from the Bible to speak to us, but He can use other methods as well. For example, God uses a sense of His peace in our spirts to guide us — see my article An Umpire Named Peace.

So, in my intimate connection with Yeshua (see His analogy of the vine and branches in John 15), I listen for His instruction, and then (hopefully) obey what He tells me. If He tells me to travel to Kenya, then out of love and obedience to my Savior I will. If He wants me to be martyred there, then so be it. But I'm not going to read a verse in the Bible about martyrdom and just blindly obey it through self-imposed religion, without the direct guidance of Yeshua from His Spirit to my spirit. And I'm definitely not going to do it just because some ignorant reader taunts me!

But I will make one concession to you, Jan: I will pray, and ask Yeshua if it is His will for me to do as you suggest. If He shows me that it is, I will write my will, set my other affairs in order, kiss my wife and children goodbye, and take that plane to Nairobi which you mentioned. "I speak the truth in Messiah — I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit — The God and Father of the Master Yeshua, Who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying." (Romans 9:1, 2 Corinthians 11:31)

When persecution and martyrdom come to America, as they surely will, we need to be in intimate relationship with Yeshua so we can receive His daily, hourly, and even moment by moment instruction. How else we can know what He wants us to do in each specific situation? Sometimes He might tell us to flee persecution. Other times He might tell us to remain where we are and face it. Sometimes He might supernaturally protect us from death. At another time He may choose to honor us with the opportunity to die for Him as a martyr. It is not by looking to the Bible merely as a list of rules that we can navigate these dangerous waters, but only by being in intimate connection with Yeshua, letting Him apply the Bible to our lives as each situation requires.

I do not see anywhere in the New Testament which teaches that we should seek martyrdom. Unfortunately, a misunderstanding arose in the early centuries of the Church, as overzealous Christians applied the New Testament teaching on martyrdom with their human reasoning rather than relying on instructions from Yeshua through intimate relationship with Him. A Wikipedia article reports:
The earliest Christian martyrs, tortured and killed by Roman officials enforcing worship of the emperors, won so much fame among their co-religionists that others wished to imitate them to such an extent that a group presented themselves to the governor of Asia, declaring themselves to be Christians, and calling on him to do his duty and put them to death. He executed a few, but as the rest demanded it as well, he responded, exasperated, "You wretches, if you want to die, you have cliffs to leap from and ropes to hang by." This attitude was sufficiently widespread for Church authorities to begin to distinguish sharply "between solicited martyrdom and the more traditional kind that came as a result of persecution."
Indeed, rather than seeking martyrdom, Yeshua said that when His followers were persecuted, they might flee somewhere else (see Matthew 10:23 and Luke 21:21). This is also the example we see lived out by Yeshua's followers in the early Church (see Acts 8:1 and Acts 11:19). But He never sanctioned violent self-defense or violent resistance — that is not the way of the Lamb of God whom we are called to imitate.

In addition to fleeing, Yeshua also promised that His followers would be martyred:
"Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.... You will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of Me.... They will put you out of the congregation; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God.... Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer... you will suffer persecution... be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor's crown. (Matthew 10:21, Matthew 24:9, John 16:2, Revelation 2:10)
Persecution and martyrdom WILL come to American, therefore my goal is to help prepare Christians so that they will remain faithful to Yeshua even to the point of death. Please take my words and warnings to heart! Please read the New Testament carefully and find out what it really says — not just what you imagine it says, or what others have told you it says. Please don't scoff and mock as my two readers who left comments have done. Rather, prepare your spirit, mind and body for persecution and martyrdom, so that you may obtain a victor's crown when Yeshua returns.