The Greek Word for martyr, means “witness.” And in our passage this week, we are introduced to the first Christian martyr. His name is Stephen, and He was killed because of his witness for Jesus Christ.
When you think of a martyr, is your first instinct to assume that person is Christian, or does you immediately assume he is of another religion? Do you often assume that martyr is an “extremist?” The mainstream media certainly paints martyrs as extremists but, in reality, the majority of them are not extreme in the way we often think. In 2011 alone, there were 105,000 Christians killed for their faith in Jesus Christ. That amounts to 288 a day, 12 an hour, 1 every five minutes! They were not killed because they were suicide bombers or committed some violent crime against another religious group. They were killed simply for acting out their faith in Jesus Christ as God has called us all to. Most of them did so in countries where Christianity is not well tolerated. Yet, most would not have been killed if they just kept their beliefs to themselves. So why didn’t they? Certainly there had to be better ways to manage their risk. Yet, knowingly, many Christians around are not willing to limit their risk and would even rather risk their lives daily to witness to Jesus Christ.
Even in this country, if we are obedient to Christ, we will face suffering of some kind. Really! Suffering for Jesus is not something we, as believers, can easily avoid or escape. In fact, Jesus tells us to expect suffering if we are His disciples. Stephen’s death ended up catapulting the Gospel and the early church into the outer reaches of the Roman Empire. What you and I can learn from Stephen’s experience can catapult our own walk with Jesus, and it can catapult the ministry reach of our church into new and previously unreached territory. You may not be asked to physically give up your life for Jesus, but how much of it are you willing to risk?
Join us for worship on Sunday morning at 10:30, prayer and Christian Formation classes at 9:15, and don’t forget the All Church Dinner and Prayer Walk immediately after the service in Stark Hall.