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Lessons on spirituality from the martyrs

November 7, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

pressure valves by Beatriz Pitarch

Discipleship implies suffering, leads to persecution, tests mettle, demands steadfastness, requires endurance and even leads to death. It demands that we confess Jesus as Lord. 30

The above quote comes from Water from a Deep Well: Christian Spirituality from Early Martyrs to Modern Missionaries by Gerald L. Sittser which I finished in September.  Thought I would put a few choice quotes from each of the chapters. In the first chapter, Sittser looks at the spirituality of the early church martyrs.  Following are more quotes from the chapter–more lessons Sittser learned as he examined the lives of those early martyrs.

  • Their story does not make me want to die a martyr’s death; it is too gruesome and horrible for that.  But it does make me want to live a martyr’s life, for they had the courage to give their lives completely to Jesus Christ.  Their faith in Christ puts a fire in me to honor Christ, “whether by life or by death,” as the apostle Paul put it. 31
  • In the end, therefore, the Christian belief in Jesus as Savior and Lord caused the greatest offense.  Critics indicated that they were willing to accept Jesus as a way to God, just as they accepted most other ways to God, but only under the condition that Christians would abandon the belief that Jesus was the way to God. The Christian confession that Jesus is Lord simply flew in the face of Rome’s pluralism and tolerance. 41
  • The other mystery religions in Ancient Rome did not produce many martyrs (Judaism being the one exception). It was Christians who died for their faith. That fact alone caught people’s attention. 46
  • Martyrdom is foundational to our understanding of Christian spirituality, for it highlights what was—and still is—distinctive in Christianity. . .  It could be that martyrdom as literal death misses the main point. Most of us will not have to die for our faith, thought it might come to that, even for those living in the West.  But we will all face moments when we will have to choose between Christ and something else that views for our ultimate allegiance. 47
  • The martyrs did not die to prove something to God or earn something from God but to witness to the life they had received as a gift from God.  This gift was so precious and priceless to them that they could not keep it a secret.
  • Martyrdom was and still is a witness to grace. . . Christian spirituality has little to do with what we do for God. We will never be able to love, pray, think, feel, work, meditate, fast or even die our way into a deeper spiritual life if we rely on human effort or clever schemes alone.  There is nothing we can do—nothing we have to do—to find a way to God, because in Jesus Christ God has already made his way to us. 48

A couple of passages to help us understand suffering in order to supplement Sittser:

  • “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,” (Romans 5:3 ESV)
  • “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,” (Philippians 1:29 ESV)
  • “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8 ESV)
  • “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” (2 Timothy 3:12 ESV)
  •  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Pet. 5:9, 10)
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