The Blood of the Martyrs

By Stan Mitchell

What would cause you to leave Christ and his church? What would be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back? How deeply held are your Christian convictions?

I am stunned by the shallowness with which some hold their convictions. If the preacher’s wife doesn’t greet me, I’m “so outta here,” someone says. “If they move the back three pews out of the auditorium, I’ll leave the church.”

Really?

Think about the early Christians. They were burned at the stake, dismembered, thrown to the gladiators, yet remained faithful to God.

How pathetic we must look to these early believers when we surrender our convictions for a pittance! To us the color of the carpet would force us to leave the Lord, to early Christians nothing, not peril or persecution or death would separate them from their Lord.

It was the early church father Tertullian (160-225) who observed: “The more we are cut down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is the seed by which the church grows” (Apology, 50)

Every drop of blood spilt by the martyrs was the seed of another Christian. The Roman Empire could not squelch the early church. Knock one down, and twenty took their place!

This spirit of courage and commitment is reflected in John’s cry of triumph:

“And they have conquered him by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (Revelation 12:10, ESV).

They were willing to die for their faith. We complain when we have to sit through half an hour of biblical instruction; we quit the church when it doesn’t serve us to our specifications; we shun our brethren on a whim; when a well-meaning preacher or elder comes to our house and enquires whether we are OK we dump a load of resentments and criticisms on their shoulders.

We could walk away from the church if it was no more than a hobby. We could walk away if its members were not individuals with an eternal destiny, a destiny whose end we might affect by our defection. We could walk away from the church if Christ had not spilt history’s most precious commodity for its purchase.

But we know this is not true. Christianity is no pastime, Christians are discouraged by defections, and Jesus paid the ultimate price for the church. We dare not quit on it.