Part Two from an article I wrote this week for my local paper. Scroll down to read about St. Valentine in Part One: Suffering for Love.
Followers of Christ around the globe still suffer and die for their faith, even in our so-called civilized age. Why do they willingly, even fearlessly, suffer? They do it for love – not romantic love but because the love of Christ compels them. They are able to do it only because God loved them first.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.” (I John 4: 18-19).
Christians are dying for their faith at the rate of one every five minutes, according to “The Price of Freedom Denied” by sociologists Grim and Finke. On average, 280 Christians were martyred every day (12 per hour) over the past decade.
The word “martyr” comes from the root word “witness.” Our common usage speaks to a steep price exacted for that witness: death. In Hebrews 11, the Hall of Faith chapter, anonymous martyrs are included as people who exhibited great faith. They are called “those of whom the world was not worthy.”
Witnessing can bring feelings of unease, but we don’t risk being tortured because of it. We may be ridiculed for our relationship with Christ. But persecuted? I don’t think so.
Most Americans are oblivious to the plight of the persecuted. Many deny that it could possibly happen today. Yet last year alone, 105,000 new Christian martyrs entered heaven’s gates. That’s a steep increase from 1900, when 34,000 were murdered.
While we freely worship in churches, thousands of our persecuted brothers and sisters around the globe worship in chains – imprisoned for their faith. Maybe this Valentine’s Day, the red color of our cards and flowers will bring to mind the blood of martyrs.
And remind us to pray for those who suffer for the love of Christ. Those of whom the world was not worthy.