The issue of martyrdom is central to a vibrant Christianity. Tertullian famously said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” The reality is that the church is called to martyrdom. The Greek word “martus” that is used in the New Testament can be translated in the English to “martyr” or “witness” depending on the context. For example, in Acts 1:8, Jesus called His followers to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth. The word for witnesses there is martus. We are called to be His martyrs. Whether or not we are forcibly killed for the gospel is actually a minor issue. Following Jesus requires an inward martyrdom from the word and it’s system. It requires a death to the ways of thinking and understanding that we were born with. In short, we must first be martyrs in our heart if we are to be true witnesses on the earth.
This concept is particularly difficult for western Christians. For one thing, the world is so appealing and comfortable that we find it difficult to root ourselves in an eternal reality. It is just too comfortable in this time and in this age. Secondly, western culture and the church have become intertwined in such a way that we sometimes assume our western culture is the equivalent of a Christian culture. While Christianity and Christian ideals have been a significant influence on western culture, we cannot consider western culture to be equivalent with a kingdom that Jesus clearly said was not of this world.