I once heard a speaker recall his early years when he called on white clergy in the south to advocate for the rights of God's children of color. After the second one committed suicide in the weeks following their conversation he lost the heart to be the vehicle bringing such conflict to fellow Christians. His story follows me because, as a natural firebrand, my passion for embracing my understanding of truth has brought pain to my family. I won't know on this side of heaven if that was right or not, or if I missed a better way because I relied so completely on my personal perspective.
This is such a small thing compared to the Christian who has her family threatened if she does not renounce her faith. But it does give me at least a small capacity for tenderness for such a challenge. To tell someone, "Kill me if you must" is quit different I think than "Go ahead and kill those I love." We might think, "Surely they can renounce under duress and God will forgive." Of course God forgives this; think of Peter denying Christ three times before the second rooster crowed.
But think of what that did to Peter! That same Peter who was rather cocky about his faith and his loyalty had in a moment his self-image shattered. As the Spirit of God rebuilt him, Peter's passion and commitment were tempered with compassion and a greater dependence on God.
Also, how would it feel to try to live externally in a way that totally violates everything held dear on the inside?
No, I think when faith flourishes in such a harsh environment it is no tentative or conditional idea, but rather something fully committed and wholly embraced in ways we in our culture can rarely conceive. This is why the names of the martyrs have not been lost in the sands of time, but rather honored for the light they continue to shine into the world.
I appreciate Martin Luther's comment: "Hier stehe ich und kann nicht anders! Gott helfe mir, Amen!" or "Here I stand I can do no other. God help me. Amen"
Most merciful God, we pray Your grace, comfort, and strength be poured out on those facing persecution for Your sake. And we thank You for being wholly present with them, with those who love them and those who are intimidated by their situation. AMEN