February 18, 2015

Christian Martyrs

By In Blogs, Shane Kastler

If you watch the news for even a few moments, you realize that Christians around the world are hated. Public executions of Christians are becoming more frequent. And not surprisingly, many Christians are concerned and even terrified. Yet Jesus tells us to have a much different reaction in the face of possible martyrdom.

Jesus said: “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28 NASBIndeed there are many enemies who might kill you. But Jesus specifically says not to fear them. Most of us would agree that this is easier said than done. Yet Jesus gives His people the ability to face death with courage. In that moment when we might expect to be most afraid, the Lord is with us and gives us a supernatural courage.

The Apostle Paul spoke of this when he faced the prospect of his own death. He wrote to Timothy saying: “At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me.” (2 Timothy 4:16-17) Even though every one else deserted Paul; the Lord stood with him. But eventually Paul was killed. In fact, eventually Paul was beheaded by the enemies of Christianity. The more things change the more they stay the same.

Christians have always been hated by the world. Jesus promised his followers that they would be hated and that many would be killed. But regardless of whether or not you die by martyrdom or by natural causes; this world is not your home either way. And you cannot live eternally in this life. So you better be prepared for the next one.

While Jesus said not to fear those who could kill the body; He did say there was one who you should fear. You should fear the one who has power over the eternal soul. You should fear God and submit to Him. You should live your life with holy reverence toward the Lord. Fear Him and not man.

Are you prepared to die? Are you prepared for eternity? Have you turned from your sin in repentance and trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord? Are you following Him daily? If so you can expect hatred from the world. You might even be killed for your faith. But your soul is safe with Him. Don’t fear those who kill the body. Fear the Lord alone and trust Him with your future. No matter what the future holds.

Written by Shane Kastler

Shane Kastler serves as Pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Lake Charles, Louisiana (www.hbc-lakecharles.com). He is a graduate of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Master of Divinity) and Northeastern State University (Bachelor of Business Admin.). In addition to pastoring, he is the Co-Host of "Church & State" heard every Thursday from 8-10 AM on KELB, 100.5 FM in Lake Charles. Shane writes a weekly newspaper column called "Seeking Higher Ground" and has contributed articles to "Sword & Trowel", the "Economic Policy Journal", and LewRockwell.com. He is also the author of "Nathan Bedford Forrest's Redemption" a biography of the great Confederate general, which tells of how he found redemption in Christ. Shane and his wife Erin are both native Oklahomans, who now make their home in Lake Charles with their 3 children. His blog is: http://shanekastler.typepad.com
  • RA Jameson

    I affirm this, wholeheartedly. What say you to those Christians that espouse the virtue of “self-defense”?

    • C.Jay Engel

      As one who supports the concept of defending the body and property lent to us by God, I would reject the language of “virtue of self-defense” and rather call it the “right to self-defense.” I believe that it is an issue of both conscience and Christian freedom to act defensively and it largely depends on the heart-status of the individual and the specific context. It is not necessarily “virtuous” to defend oneself anymore than it is “virtuous” to drink alcohol. But let each man decide how he will act and let him glorify God with the things God has given him. This is the distinction between the “right” to do something and the “virtue” of doing something. But I’m sure Shane has his own opinions on this:)

      • RA Jameson

        Thank you C.Jay. Do you see martyrdom and self-defense as working towards opposite ends?

        • C.Jay Engel

          No. Martyrdom is about refusing to recant the Christian faith or refusing to stop obeying the God-given stipulations of the Christian life when commanded to. Self-defense is simply the physical protection of the property owned (lent by God) by the individual. I honestly think that if someone came up to me randomly throwing punches trying to beat me up, it would be ridiculous for me to refuse to push him away or block his punches because of some distorted understanding of “martyrdom.” Not that you would define martyrdom as such; but just making the point that basic self-defense is not opposed to the concept of the martyr.

          • RA Jameson

            But this is a post about martyrdom. Real martyrdom in the face of violence. Do you see self-defense, in this context, and martyrdom, in this context, as working towards opposite ends?

          • C.Jay Engel

            I think there is a great amount of truth to saying that they work toward opposite ends, yes. When the soldiers of Caesar came to arrest the Christians for preaching the gospel, it would have proven destructive to the message of the Kingdom of God for them to fight back. Self-defense should never ever take precedence before the advancement of the Gospel and the display of Christian humility.

          • RA Jameson

            I affirm. Thank you for the kind, thoughtful responses.

          • Brian K. Jacobson

            I think what C. Jay said above is the key, in missionary endeavors and in your function as an ambassador for Christ carrying out the message of the gospel violent response is counter productive to the message and the means. However being killed and happening to be a Christian does not make you a martyr. The stranger who has no idea you are a Christian and breaks into your house is a different story.

          • RA Jameson

            For the record, in your situation, yes, I can see merit in blocking his punches. That is the difference between pacifism and passivism.

          • C.Jay Engel

            Does the phrase “self-defense” suggest more than blocking punches to an extent that indicates immorality?

          • RA Jameson

            No sir (original comment). But we better not let the neocons define “self-defense.” (additional comment, added after the original comment.)

          • C.Jay Engel

            I will definitely admit, though, that “self-defense” has been often used in a way that has nothing at all do with with “defense.” These actions are as misleadingly labelled defensive as American wars are about “defending the nation.” So that is something that needs to be always remembered by people like me who use the phrase. It, like most phrases, are abused greatly:)