You’re Such a Martyr!

s1949002In my sermon this past Sunday, I encouraged all of us to consider the ways that we use the word “martyr” in popular parlance. Usually, when we call someone a martyr, we are referring to someone who may come off as a bit melodramatic, willing to perform (some) responsibilities and even act in sacrificial ways at times, but definitely wants to get noticed and be given credit for their “suffering.” The Christian tradition has a much deeper and richer understanding of the word and it starts with the story of Stephen (Acts 6 & 7). Stephen was among a group of seven that were chosen to assist the Apostles in the work of the church — specifically helping with food distribution and caring for widows — so they could devote themselves to teaching and preaching. Ironically, it’s not his service that gets him in trouble: it’s his preaching (the stuff that was supposedly reserved for the “professionals”). After he gives a scathing sermon about how God’s people have always been hard-hearted and rejected Moses, the prophets, and now even Jesus, an angry crowd turns on him and he is stoned to death. As you read the text, look for the parallels to the life of Jesus — there are many and Luke is intentional in drawing them out.

The Greek word for martyr — martus — literally means “a witness.” Very few of us will ever be asked to die for our convictions of faith like Stephen, but all of us are called to live as witnesses tromeroa-sourceo the living, loving presence of Christ. Wouldn’t it be amazing if someone looked at your life and saw so much of Jesus in your words and your actions that they said, “You’re such a martyr!” (in the very best sense of that word)? I lifted up the life of Archbishop Oscar Romero as a contemporary example of a martyr, someone who has inspired me and thousands of others as a powerful witness for Christ. Who inspires you (either living or deceased) to be a more committed follower of Jesus because of their faithful witness?