Dying for Christ

by Ted Kyle

Editor's note: The Christian writer Tertullian (c. 200) asserted that "the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church." If this is still true today, Christ's church stands to reap a mighty harvest! Organizers of the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (held Nov. 12) said that in the last 2,000 years, 43 million Christians have become martyrs. More than 50 percent of these were in the last 100 years. A Christian is martyred every three minutes, according to a report from Christians in Crisis and Open Doors. In nearly 50 countries around the world it is illegal to profess Christ as Savior and/or possess a Bible. Seventy percent of all believers live outside the Western world-many of them in nations with poor human rights records. Christians look back to heroes-and heroines-of the faith, dating from the death of Christ Jesus on the cross and the stoning of Stephen for his accusing testimony to the Jews, through the turbulent era of Roman persecutions. In the intervening centuries there have been periodic upswings in violence against followers of Christ-such as the Catholic war against the Anabaptists centered in France, and the Turkish genocide of Armenians during World War I, among many examples. Wikipedia notes that the Russian Orthodox Church in post-Soviet times termed many of those who died for this faith "New Martyrs", meaning that it was the second greatest persecution of Christians since the early centuries of the Christian era. And today the blood-letting goes on, most notably in regions shared by Christians and Muslims. Many thousands of Christians have died in southern Sudan, as a result of the Islam-dominated north. Afghanistan's Taliban regime had been known as well to mount another wave of persecutions, although this has received less international attention, given its scale. And persecution, including many deaths, continues to occur in parts of Indonesia, India-where Hindu activists wish to eliminate Christian witness-and China, Burma, and many other countries. In fact, there has never been an extended period of time since Christianity was birthed when Christians were not dying for their faith, somewhere on Earth. In contrast, how amazingly free from persecution are believers in America. We are free to worship as we please-or not, if we please. Bibles and a plethora of Christian works are readily available for purchase. Churches are not closed by police order nor forced to apply for permits to exist. Individuals are not required to carry identity cards which list their religious status. Our leaders are not subject to enforced "re-education" in labor camps. All this we take for granted. Far too much for granted, for the church has been accused of being asleep, self-centered, and largely uncaring about either personal holiness or carrying out the Great Commission. Where is the vital heart of the church? It would seem to be in the outer trenches of the world, where those who name the name of Christ Jesus do so at their peril. May God give them utmost courage!
2011 Disciple 155x50 2011 AMG 155x50
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