Many great people of God have given their lives for the sake of the gospel. Beginning with Stephen in Acts 7, well-known saints throughout history have given their lives for Christ. In ancient history, we read about the steadfastness of Irenaeus or Polycarp. In recent history, we have people like John Hus or William Tyndale. In modern history, we have followers of Jesus like Jim Elliot or Cassie Bernall. Whatever your perspective, there remains a long line of faithful servants of God whose faith was tested in a definitive way - martyrdom.
In many ways, American Christians view martyrdom as the pinnacle test of faith. But this view was challenged in my own life a few weeks ago. During our online couples' retreat, Kurt Copeland read 1 Corinthians 13:3, and it gripped my heart in a new way: "And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing."
Did you catch that? If I suffer at the martyr's stake, but do not love others in a Christ-like manner, my activity is a wasted sacrifice. God is not glorified, and I have gained nothing.
That's a convicting thought.
As I reflected on that verse while sitting on my couch, I wrote the following statement in my journal: "My real love for others is more important to God than martyrdom. Real love can be demonstrated by more than martyrdom; but martyrdom without love for others is never a demonstration acceptable to God."
Although it hasn't been common for North Americans, there are times when a true child of God should be willing to face even death for the sake of the gospel. But if I harden my heart to the plight of the people around me, yet face a martyr's fate, God is not pleased with my hypocritical love and hard heart.
So, what will you do today that will demonstrate real, Christ-like love to others? In a powerful way, Paul elevated loving others above hypocritical-martyrdom.
Written by Edward Barclay