However, in the wake of this massacre, some Christians have been quick to canonize the victims as saints, while others have just as quickly condemned them for their Eastern Orthodox connections. So what connection does martyrdom have to faith? Does being murdered for one’s faith prove such faith as genuine?
“If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” – 1 Peter 4:14-16
Scripture is clear that suffering for Christ should be considered a privilege. In fact, when the apostles were flogged by the Sanhedrin, they rejoiced that they should be counted worthy of suffering for the name of Christ. Church history is filled with men and women who died for their faith in Jesus Christ and they should rightly be honored.
But the Bible holds up another truth: that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. Being a martyr for one’s faith does prove that that faith was genuine, but it does not prove what that faith was in. We should not base someone’s righteousness in how they died, but rather on who they believed in. Because saving righteousness is only given to those who believe in the name of Jesus. I do not know what those 21 Coptic Christians believed in, but I do know that if their trust was in Christ alone then they are justified on that basis alone, regardless of the manner of their death. And I also know that the senseless taking of human life is an act of cowardice and its evil will be judged by the Righteous Judge.
Let our faith be strong enough that we hold to it even in the face of a murderous blade.
To God Alone Be the Glory,
Pastor Andrew Zoschke