Faith Worth Dying For

 “THERE is nothing worth living for unless it is worth dying for.” So said Elisabeth Elliot, whose husband, Jim Elliot, died a martyr’s death at the age of 28 , while trying to bring Christianity to a remote tribe of people living in the Amazon rain forest.

This is reminiscent of Jesus’  teaching that it is worthless to gain the whole world and yet lose one’s own soul. Elisabeth understood why her husband was in willing to die for his faith, and she followed his lead by successfully continuing his mission to spread the Christian message to that tribe.

People of faith are aware that there is a greater purpose beyond this life on earth and their own lives as individuals. God created us as eternal beings, so our souls outlive the lifespan of our mortal bodies. This eternal perspective eclipses what would otherwise be a short-term, transient, mundane focus on the here and now.

It surprises many people to learn that there are more Christian martyrs today than there have been in the entire history of Christianity. That is due, partly, to the exponential growth in population, but it also points to the stubborn persistence of intolerance and hatred in the world. We see this in the rise of terrorism.

The UK Government lists 79 terrorist organisations, which are proscribed under the Terrorism Act. These include Hamas and Hezbollah, which are currently active in the Middle East, primarily against Israel. 

We might think it foolish for Christian missionaries to seek to take the Christian message to such groups, but Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, and anyone who wants to be a peacemaker has the hope that it is only by trying to win the hearts and minds of our enemies that they can be transformed into friends.

Some friends of mine have recently been working with churches in India, where many churches are being burnt down, and Christian communities displaced, because of growing opposition to the Christian message. I also have friends who regularly go to support missionary work in Nigeria, which is currently the top country for Christian martyrdom. These friends have certainly found something to live for that is also worth dying for.

Can we say the same about ourselves?

lan Toone,

Lay member of New Life Church Derby