“All alike displayed faith in Christ to their persecutors, they proclaimed the Name and were willing to die.” St. Nicholas Cabasilas
Such was the disposition of the Christian martyrs. Martyrs are those who have shed their blood to hold fast the Faith. Yet martyr simply means witness. Christ the Lord tells His disciples, “You shall be witnesses ( Greek – martys) to Me” (Acts 1:8). The essential vocation of a Christian is to be a living witness to Christ Jesus. The vital fuel of living witness is love for Christ the Lord and the keeping of His commandments, “If you love Me, keep my commandments. Jesus … said … if anyone loves Me, he will keep my words” (John 14:15, 23). “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 John 5:3). Every martyr is afire with love for God. Such love brings grace; such love gives courage and strength to endure every ridicule that the world hurls.
Many who claim the name of Christ have either partially or completely compromised the commandments of the Lord. By this we know that such ones do not in truth love Christ Jesus, nor are they indeed Christians. A Christian is one who strives to keep the commandments of Christ. They have loved the world and its approbation more than Christ Jesus and the Heavenly Kingdom. “Love not the world or the things in the world. If anyone love the world, the love of the Father is not in Him” (1 John 2:15). “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).
“By the term ‘world’ is meant those people who lead a sinful life opposed to the will of God, who live for time and not for eternity … Saint Issac the Syrian … defines the world thus: ‘The world is the general name for all the passions … when we wish to call the passions by a common name, we call them the world” (St. Ignatius Brianchaninov).
Thus faithful Christians are admonished by St. Clement, “Brothers, let us turn away from life as residents in this world and do the will of Him who called us, and let us not be afraid to depart from this world … What, then, must we do to obtain them [Kingdom of Heaven and eternal life], except live a holy life, and regard these worldly things as alien to us, and not desire them?”
The unrepentant world cannot but hate true Christians. Christianity testifies that this fallen system is passing away. It testifies to the truth that mankind is accountable to God. The world deeply resents this. It desires to be its own master. The Wisdom of Solomon reveals the root of this world’s hatred for the faithful follower of the commandments of Christ, the ungodly say of the witness of Christ, “He claims to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord. He has become for us as a refutation of our purposes; even seeing him is a burden to us, because his life is unlike that of others; for his paths go in a different direction” (2:13-15).
The world will never be at peace with true Christianity. In our times there is a concerted assault, by the fallen world, on the revelation of Christ. As long as true Christians are alive, such ones stand as living testimonies against the world. This is why all modern godless systems seek to destroy true Faith in Christ. Our greatest witness is to dissent with the world. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).
Our Sweet Lord Jesus reminds us, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet you because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19). Christ the Lord is the supreme Martyr, for the salvation of mankind.
Any system of purported “Christianity” that seeks to appease the world is false. It is salt without flavor, fit only to be trampled upon (cf. Matthew 5:15). The greatest gift of love that a Christian can offer is to call the world to repentance and salvation in Christ. “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand …”
A Christian is a witness to the world that it is fallen and passing away, and only the Truth of Christ abides forever. The Church is the witness that time is speeding to an end, only Eternity remains. Every man, woman, and child will have to give an account of their life before their Creator and Lord.
As the world, from the very beginning, has sought to silence this witness, so it shall continue to do until that last day. You can put money on it. Currently, it is seeking to silence any voice that says it is wrong, and that calls it to a higher standard. It has always shed the blood of those who witness against it. It has always hated them. A Christian is one who is hated by the world, precisely because a Christian is one who strives to live not for this world. St John the Theologian proclaims, “Whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 Jn. 5: 4-5)?
Fellow Christians, it is our time to display our faith to our persecutors and to be willing to die for the Name of our beloved Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is a time for courage and boldness in the Lord. “Let your light so shine before men …” (Matthew 5:16). Our times will know no other martyrs besides us.