To die is gain? – On religious martyrdom and forgiveness
Christian Commentary – Martyrdom is not a new occurrence nor one that is restricted to Christianity. We often hear news stories from Iraq of suicide bombers hoping to gain favor with God by offering themselves as sacrifices. So what about martyrs? What is so convincing about one’s faith that one would die for it?
One example of twentieth century Christian martyrs is the missionary Jim Elliot and his four co-workers Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming, and Nate Saint. There were two recent movies made telling their story: End of the Spear and the documentary Beyond the Gates of Splendor. In 1956, these five men felt called to share the gospel with the Auca Indians of Ecuador, a violent indigenous people group who had never had friendly contact with the outside world. After a promising brief encounter including an airplane ride for one of the Waodoni (Auca) nicknamed George, they made plans to actually visit the tribe. During their journey they were ambushed and speared to death by ten Waodoni (Auca) men.
The thing that is astounding to me about this story is the reaction of their families. Two years later the wife and sister of two of the murdered missionaries, Elisabeth Elliot and Rachel Saint, went to live with and minister to the same people who had killed the ones they loved. Even now, the son of one of the missionaries killed, along with his family, live with the tribe. His children now call one of the elders of the tribe “grandfather,” even though he is the same one who killed their real grandfather.
Reflecting on these stories got me thinking. What would I die for? Or to what or for whom would I sacrifice my life? What about you?
And secondly, is this kind of forgiveness possible outside of divine intervention?
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose. – Jim Elliot
- rfogue (Rachel)