[This is the MILLERWRITES contribution to the 2012 Blogging A to Z April Challenge Here is my INTRODUCTION to this particular series, and an opportunity for you to influence which alphabetically aligned weird words I will comment on this month. THANK YOU for stopping by!]
"Ewww! What an ugly word!" Yeah, well. There are a lot of ugly words in the Bible. Sacrifice for example. Animal lovers like me cringe at the thought of all of those sheep and goats, all unblemished specimens, being slaughtered and then burnt for the supposed sake of a bunch of filthy rag sinners. I say 'supposed' because the redeeming effect was really an illusion; it only 'worked' for a limited time, because it was only a gruesome shadow of the real grisly sacrifice that would have to be laid down one day by God incarnate. But I digress.
A MARTYR, in the legal sense, is a witness. One who has seen something or other and comes forth to testify as to the truth of what he has observed. In the 'ugly' sense (but which is of utmost beauty) our use of the word MARTYR carries a much more specified meaning. Yes, he or she is still a witness, but realizes he or she will suffer death for testifying in favor of his real knowledge of the Savior. He is warned that death will follow the naming of Christ as his Lord, but does so anyway!
A true MARTYR can not help herself. A believer is either committed to following Christ completely or is not, but the MARTYR makes her position clear and beyond doubt only when her faith is challenged to this utmost degree. Many of us might stand and proudly declare we would die for Christ, but we in America don't really know, yet. Around the world right now, many who profess to be Christians are being persecuted, and martyred every day. Those who pay attention say that persecution has been on the rise and is now, more widespread than ever.
Here in Acts 22:20 (the only time the word is used in the Bible), Paul is confessing his part in the murder of Stephen, the very first MARTYR.
And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.
Paul (then known as Saul) was probably glad to serve the actual stone throwers so the fine clothes he was wearing, as a 'Pharisee of Pharisees', would not be blood spattered. But I can almost hear the cry in his broken voice as he remembers hearing Stephen's dying prayer described in Acts 7: Stephen followed Jesus' example of forgiving even from the cross, and he set his own example for generations of MARTYRS to come when he fell on his knees and said: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”
I highly recommend reading Acts 7, the story of Stephen's short but amazing life as a new believer.