Could You Be a Martyr? You’ve Already Answered That Question
“I still feel the tears in my eyes and hear in my ears the siren of the Gestapo motor car. I see the smile on her face while she bade me farewell.” That was what a child remembered fifty years later. Jane Haining was being taken away to be gassed at Auschwitz, for the crime — as the Nazis thought it — of taking care of Jewish children in German-occupied Budapest. Sheila Walsh tells her story in Time to Take a Stand.
Haining was a martyr for her faith. Maybe not directly, the way the early Christians were, like Perpetua and Felicity. The Romans told them to worship Caesar, they refused, the Romans threw them into the arena to be eaten by animals or sliced up by gladiators.
She was a martyr indirectly, as so many Christians heroes have been. She chose to follow the Lord by serving others when she knew that doing so would end badly for her. She was home in Scotland when the war started but went back to Budapest to take care of the children. “If these children need me in the days of sunshine,” she asked, “how much more do they need me in the days of darkness?”
Everyone knew the Germans would invade eventually and arrest people like Jane Haining. When they finally entered Hungary in 1944, they came for her and took her away.
The Germans didn’t say, “Worship Hitler or we’ll kill you.” They did say in different ways, “Take care of the Jews and we’ll kill you.” She must have known that. Among the charges against her were “working among the Jews” and “weeping when seeing the girls wearing yellow stars,” referring to the Nazi-ordered badge that marked them out as Jews.
Her superiors ordered her to come home three times and she refused, saying “I shall continue to do my duty and stick to my post.” Jane Haining knew what sticking to her post could mean for her. She stayed anyway. That’s what martyrs do.
Could You Be a Martyr?
Could you or I be a martyr like St. Perpetua and St. Felicity and Jane Haining? Could we give our lives for Jesus, directly or indirectly? Could we decide to keep doing what we’re doing even though it will mean we die in the arena or in the death camp?
Maybe. I hope so. We won’t know until we’re put to the test. Give us a hard, clear, black-and-white decision, like whether to worship Caesar or go back to Budapest, and we might make the right one. I pray so.
Here’s the thing, though: We’ve already had to make thousands of hard, clear, black-and-white decisions. We’ve had lots of chances to get hurt for Jesus’s sake. Life has been giving us a training ground for martyrdom.
We haven’t faced the lions, the gladiators or the Nazis. Nothing so dramatic — or so clear. But we have faced the office atheist or the neighborhood gossip or the mob that expects you to join in bullying its chosen victim. We’ve been sitting at dinner when someone slanders black people or poor people or Jewish people, and some people nod. Most of us have had the boss who wants you to lie or cheat or the group culture that expects you to go along to get along.
We have been given lots of chances to act for God or for his truth, or in defense of people he loves. We’ve had to decide whether to go along and get along or to speak up and pay the cost. This was all practice. The problem for us is that, depending on what we do, it’s all practice either for standing up for the Lord or practice for denying Him. We’re getting better and better at one or the other.
An Easy Example
Take an easy example. When the office atheist standing by the coffee-maker makes fun of Christians for being stupid or makes some claim like “You can’t believe in God when kids die of leukemia” and other people agree, do you say anything? Or do you let him have the floor and keep preaching atheism to your co-workers? Do you deny the Lord before men by your silence?
You want to be a Perpetua, a Felicity or a Jane? You want the courage to be a martyr if God ever calls you to give your life for Him? Start practicing now, when the hurts won’t hurt much, so you’re in shape if you’re ever asked to die.
For more on this subject, see his Tell the Truth When It Might Hurt You.