What the Libyan Martyrs Teach Us about our Life Today
Four years ago, Islamic State terrorists beheaded twenty-one Christians on a beach in Libya. Not only did they commit this act of murder, but they captured it on film so the entire world could witness the event. The impact of this event was overwhelming on the Christian body, and millions of brothers and sisters in Christ lifted their voices in prayer and intercession. Many of us in the Western world treated this event as a tragedy, and yet, the coptic Christian community rejoices. What exactly merits such a response?
The answer is actually as old as the Church itself. The disciples of Christ suffered great persecution in the earliest days, and instead of expressing remorse or frustration, they rejoiced that they were able to suffer in the way that Christ suffered. It seems contrary to human nature, to find joy amidst pain and death, but this is the effect of the Spirit. While pain and death are not inherently good things, they produce something incredibly good when the Holy Spirit is added to the equation.
The Libyan martyrs remind us that the Church will never be (and should never be) safe and comfortable. It is far better to live a life of suffering that is turned toward the worship of Christ than to a life of comfort that numbs your spirit into apathy. When we remember the Libyan martyrs, we remember that Christ does not call us to avoid our cross, but rather to pick up our cross and follow Him into death. We’re not saying that believers cannot enjoy various physical elements of this world—but first and foremost our hearts and minds must be totally devoted to Christ. They should be so devoted, in fact, that we could lose all those things that we love and enjoy and find ourselves happier than we were with them. That is the effect of the Spirit on the believer. When mortal flesh is submitted to the Spirit, it gives up it’s life and takes on the life of the Spirit—a life so beautiful and powerful that death almost becomes a triviality.
We are all called to become martyrs by dying now. Dying to the things of this world. Dying to pleasure, addiction, and gratification. Dying to pride, greed, lust, sloth, envy, gluttony, and wrath. Dying to everything that might steal our heart from the greatest lover of our souls. We will never know when death will find us, but when it does, we must be ready for it and embrace it as an opportunity to be closer to our Lord.
Why bring up the Libyan martyrs now, four years after the event? So that we won't forget our place in the Church as martyrs. As we observe the martyrs of today, let us never forget that we are members of that same living Body, and that we breathe the same Spirit. It will draw us closer to Christ and reveal His promises of resurrected life in Him. ________________
“The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.” ~Tertullian
“Eighty and six years have I served Christ, nor has He ever done me any harm. How, then, could I blaspheme my King who saved Me?....I bless Thee for deigning me worthy of this day and this hour that I may be among Thy martyrs and drink the cup of my Lord Jesus Christ.” ~Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna
“And I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me. And that I live now in the flesh: I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered himself for me.” ~Galatians 2:20
“And all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution.” ~2 Timothy 3:12
"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." ~Job 1:21