Being heard is not the same as having influence. Believers must reconsider the issues of being salt and light in a pagan culture. We have tried a myriad of approaches in our evangelism, and we are not succeeding. We have been maneuvered to the margins of society, and I fear that is where we will stay.
Several years ago, a believer directed a high budget movie, The Passion of The Christ, which shattered box-office records and sparked interest in religious films when it came out in 2004. It was compelling and disturbing. We saw Jesus beaten and whipped, but the splattering of blood did not translate well into spiritual change. If perhaps anything, it inured people to a higher purpose– salvation.
We must use everything that is available to us as people to broadcast the gospel. Art, both fine and popular, music and theater, movies and sports. We need to squeeze out every venue, in every media to share the good news. Creativity is not a gift of the Holy Spirit, but it’s close.
But this is not enough. We are engaged in a heated, spiritual struggle for truth and hope. I believe that our methodology will consistently fall short of our ideals. In the time of ancient Rome the only time Christians were in the limelight were as martyrs. And the lions of the Coliseum made quick work of their witness. But man, they succeeded in reaching thousands, and the pagan empire was brought to Christ, en mass!
Perhaps martyrdom will be our path to reach America with the Gospel. The New Testament word for “witness” is martyr. It very well may be that our blood will be the seed for a new generation of believers. Church history would support this view. It should come as no surprise.
I remember witnessing once in UC Berkeley campus. It is a very challenging place in a stronghold of intellectualism. The people I encountered were bright and engaging. But as I got ready to leave, I met a university professor. He looked at me in his tweed jacket and sweater vest and said something I will never forget. “Too bad we can’t feed you to the lions”. It was a flat-calm statement; stark and frightening, because I knew he meant it.
In this enlightened campus, there was a coldness and a bitterness that I never encountered in the “drug and sex” neighborhoods of San Francisco. In contrast, this incident in Berkeley was a brazen and committed calculation against the Gospel. Perhaps persecution by core intellectuals will fuel this martyrdom to come.
We are in God’s hands. Obedience is a die-cast, deliberate decision we must make ahead of time. We can’t just hope to make it work, unless we change. “Die before you die, and your dying won’t be death”, the old preacher wrote. This could very well be our cue. Get ready. And “watch and pray.” And die now.
- Saints and Feasts: Martyrs Galacteon and his wife Epistime at Emesa (orthodoxlogos5.wordpress.com)
- Saints and Feasts: The Holy Martyrs and Confessors Gurias, Samonas and Habibus of Edessa – Heavenly Patrons of Honorable Marriage (orthodoxlogos5.wordpress.com)
- Perpetua et Felicitas, Martyres Pro Christo (bbtheo2013.wordpress.com)
- Blog Assignment #9: The Martyrs (emonagha.wordpress.com)
Post art from The Christian Martyrs’ Last Prayer, by Jean-Leon Gerome (1824-1904)