Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Stephen, First Martyr

Looking at it from purely a historical standpoint, Jesus would be considered the first martyr of Christianity. But Jesus did not choose to die in order to be a martyr. He chose to die to save the world from sin. Not only that, Jesus did not stay dead. He rose from the grave three days after His crucifixion. Kind of hard to be a martyr when you’re alive.

Stephen was the first Christian to die for being a Christian. Countless martyrs have followed him. We may not think it likely for ourselves. And it may not be likely. But every Christian may be called upon to confess their faith in the face of death. On the day we commemorate Stephen, the first to be so called, may our prayer be that of his: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

Then we will discover something about martyrdom. That Stephen is much more like Jesus than unlike Him. For Stephen, too, is not dead but alive. He lives with Christ forever in heaven, because the death of a Christian is the beginning of eternal glory in the Mansion our Lord has prepared for us. May our prayer also be that in life we remain in the faithful promises of God.

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