“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes not too long before his own trek to the gallows. It is a message that many of us miss in the Word of God.
It’s kind of funny, I have been thinking about this lately. Not that I’m dwelling on my own death or anything like that. In fact I made a blog comment yesterday along the lines of “I’m not opposed to martyrdom, but let’s not rush it, OK?” It’s just popped up in my thinking an unusual number of times. Not in a morbid sense or a fantasizing about a heroic death but in a thoughtful way. Scripture has that effect on the Christian though, truths that are gruesome or horrifying to others are merely true to us. Paul and 2 Timothy immediately spring to mind as I contemplate these things, the last letter of a condemned man.
Paul’s life and Bonhoeffer’s and the lives of many Christians before them—were ended by men because of Christ. They were killed because they would not back down on their proclamation of Christ. They would not back down on the things they believed—eternal things. The things that matter most are worth the most you can give. Theirs was the short bloody end. By classical definition they were martyrs. Someone who lays down their life for Christ and His Church.
But there are another group of martyrs I think about from time to time who go unrecognized. These are the ones who no one hears about. Who get no books written, who receive no accolades. These are the ones who do the work. The work of the Church—presenting men complete In Christ. Pastors, teachers, evangelists, little old ladies who’ve taught Sunday School for forty years and young pastors in new suits all doing the same thing day by day, hour by hour laying down of their life and taking up of the cross.
It’s the long martyrdom of the saints in these secure times. The days of study the hours of salt and grace whereby they are used by God to sanctify His church. Small steps along miles of the straight way of the Lord not the few steep steps to the gallows—gifts to the church all the same though more quiet than the others they still place what they have before the Lord. A faithful life of service to Him—may God bless them as they strive to serve.