Last Words of Jesus
Reading from the Book of John, chapter 15, verse 9:
"If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own, but because you are not
of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you." (ESV)
"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world,
it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you
out of the world." (NIV)
There have been many Christian martyrs throughout history. Today we see much persecution of believers everywhere in the world. Now is a time where our faith is tested daily, in our cities, in decisions within government, and in our workplace. Just as the scriptures foretold, we are being tested by fire: the world does not see the truth and are haters of the gospel. Therefore, they hate anything or anyone holding a light to their sins and their way of life. The apostle John reminds us to live in the power of the Holy Spirit, and to be a "light on a hill that cannot be extinguished." Jesus warned his disciples to be aware of the works of evil, call upon God for strength, and be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within them. The day would come that they would be martyred for their faith and witness to the one true God and his son Jesus.
Felix Manz was such a man, born in Switzerland in 1498. He saw truth in scripture that did not agree with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, the state church. He believed that baptism was for believing adults, not infants. He believed that salvation and membership is an individual decision. Since the baptism of infants ensured money to each church based on church membership, he was labeled a heretic for preaching against infant baptism, and for baptizing adults. The Anabaptists were so named for his work. He was warned three times by the church authorities to stop his activities, but was not deterred from his mission. Finally he was put to death by drowning, while praising God, for refusing to abandon his practices. He was 27 years old.
"All this I have told you so you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue;
in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God.
They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you
this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you
this at first because I was with you." John 16:1-4 (NIV)
Where there is persecution of Christians in this world, the church of Christ grows abundantly! The Bible says that many will come to faith in Christ in the last days. How do you see yourself as being persecuted? Are we willing vessels to be used by God to share our faith with others? A time will come, surely soon, when we will be called upon to give an answer for the faith within us. Are we willing to be ridiculed by the world at the very least? The world tries to shift the blame to us, trying to take the light off themselves (just as we seek to blame others at times). A Christian witness should be peace-loving, humble, strong in faith, and to be ready for persecution. Jesus told his followers, "Be joyful when you are persecuted, for so persecuted they the prophets before you."
Other additional reading: Martyrs Mirror, a book giving the history of Christian martyrs and reformers through the ages. This compilation shows that many martyrs were the result of religious organizations under state authority, and one commented "...the greatest danger to our souls today is not any particular denomination, but any religious tradition that intertwines itself with the world system and relies on state support." (Michael McGinnis, firstname.lastname@example.org).