When I was younger, I remember how saturated the Christian media was with questions such as,
“Would you die for Christ?” and or “If the situation were to arise, would you deny Jesus in your last moments?”
There are hundreds of variations to these questions and upon reflection I believe I know why these questions were so prevalent.
On April 20th, 1999, two high school students shot and murdered 12 students and 1 teacher at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado. Up to that time, it was the deadliest high school shooting in American history and the nation stood baffled that something so horrendous could be devised within the mind of these students.
More noteworthy than their evil deed however is a story that arose regarding one of the murdered, or as we will see, martyred.
The story goes that in weeks prior to her murder, the killers mocked her for Christian values and on the lawn of the school it is believed that they asked her to confirm her belief in God. Following her affirmative reply, the report goes that Eric Harris, the killer said,
“Then go be with Him.”
Following this, a barrage of fatal shots.
There is speculation regarding this report, which frankly matters little to me considering that it is confirmed that Scott was often harassed by the killers for her belief in Jesus Christ.
My point is this. Following this account, numerous movies, foundations, studies, and material was created essentially romanticizing and diminishing martyrdom. Growing up, frequently my peers and I was asked,
“Would you die for your faith?”
To this question, smiling and elated we would all cheer, “Yeah!”
Little did we know that all of us would struggle to live for it. Little did we know the pressures, trials, and temptations that would barrage us daily for the rest of our adolescence. Little did we know that our faith would be tried in other ways such as experiencing divorce, poverty, death of family members, and all the other things that make or break a child.
Our focus, possibly should have pinned to living for Christ first and fulfilling His will for our life, not fantasizing about when and how it would end. We could reflect on verses such as Matthew 10:33 where Jesus warns His students about disowning him but look to where we are now and realize just how out of place and out of context that people stitch that verse.
Paul understands this dilemma of being caught in between two worlds. In Philippians 1:20-24 he states the following,
“According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.
For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:
Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.”
Some important context to these verses is that Paul was in a filthy, Roman prison. Truly, Paul had good reason to want to depart, as do we, to go and be with Christ in glory.
But he understood that there were people who could not confidently say that was their destination. He understood that Christ still had a purpose, life, and role to play for His Heavenly kingdom, here on Earth.
So, my challenge is this. Keep your hope before you, for this is Godly (Romans 8:24-25). But do not neglect Paul’s truth that to “live is Christ.” Take life, one phase at time, addressing the edification of the Body and promotion of the Gospel step by step.
My challenge is this, learn to live for the faith first and let the rest be dealt with in Christ’s timing.