Martyrs fascinate me. To be so courageous that you would be willing to die for a cause you believe in is a gift many do not possess. Today is the feast day of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr. He was stoned to death by a mob, which was led by Saul of Tarsus, who would eventually from his persecuting ways and become St. Paul. Since Stephen’s death, there have been countless Christian martyrs, all of them filled with conviction and strength.The concept of being a martyr is a difficult one to think about; you can’t really set out to be a martyr. It’s not something you could ever plan for. If you were given a chance to die for your faith or for a strongly held belief of any kind, would you? You can’t know. You can say you will, but if you had to choose between death and renouncing your belief, you might choose differently with the proverbial gun pointed to your head.
I suppose it’s easier to become a martyr if you believe that renouncing your beliefs would be a fate worse than death, or if you have a mindset of forgiveness toward your persecutors. What would you die for? What is so important to you that you would willingly give up your life if you had to go without it?
While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died. -Acts 7:59-60