Martyrdom, Two Versions

            The world’s three major religions were all birthed in blood.  The first, Judaism, was born out of the blood of animals.  God showed Abraham that blood was required to bring atonement.  The secular leaders of the pre-Christian era realized the value of blood and were quick to shed it—human blood in sacrifice, human blood with little concern for any value of life.

            Out of this comes Jesus.  Humble from birth.  Unimpressive according to worldly standards, Jesus reached out across eternity and changed the paradigm for all men.  He showed us how to have a true relationship with God.  Jesus personalized God for all men.  He moved atonement from the blood of animals to the blood of a man and later men.  Jesus was the martyr whose blood established the Christian faith.  There would be more blood, also freely shed by men for the glory of God and the benefit of the Church.  Because He was a man and God, His blood was holy and pure and thus capable of atoning for all men.  From that moment God established the value of blood for the life of the Church.  The early saints often followed the example of Jesus and fertilized the Church with their own blood.  The blood of martyrs helped the church flourish and mature.  The Church was made great not just by the sacrifice of Jesus.  It was also made great out of those who followed the example of Jesus and laid down their lives for the glory of God and His true Church.

            Though few of us realize it, the blood of martyrs continues to give nutrition to the Church.  The distinction between Christian and Islamic martyrs is not so subtle.  Christian martyrs lay down their lives.  They do not kill others in the course of their martyrdom.  They do not take their own lives.  They lay down their lives.  They do not defend their own lives.  They choose to die rather than defend their own existence.

            Islamic martyrs are not commended for merely laying down their lives.  They are commended for taking their own lives and their honor is increased by the number they kill on their way to death.  They are not honored for passively permitting their lives to be taken.  The religion of Islam is thus also built on the blood—the blood of believers.  Like Christianity and Judaism, Islam understands the need for blood for atonement.  Unfortunately, they misunderstand the nature, the heart of God.  They fail to see that God cares so much for man that He will do anything to redeem man, within the confines of spiritual law.  He will let man wander away and give him a long life to give man time to find Him.  He does not end the life of man to honor Himself.  He does, however, permit some men to shorten their own life through laying down the most precious thing they have to honor Him.  Not to end the lives of others—but to lay down their lives that others might see the Glory of God in sacrifice.

            This critical distinction comes from the core of these religions and to the outside eye might cause us to all look the same.  After all, we all came from Abraham.  We all seem to celebrate death—blood is at our core.  We must, however, look beyond the blood to the core.  We must look to the values that support the theology of blood.

            Judaism’s blood is for atonement.  The sacrifices that Abraham made, the law that Moses was given, required blood.  This blood was not shed without purpose.  It was not shed for vanity’s sake.  It was not shed in anger or fear.  It was shed with divine purpose.  It was also the blood of animals only; there were severe penalties for the loss of human life.

            Christianity’s blood goes one step further.  It takes the atonement principles of Judaism and takes the concept of yearly atonement to an understanding of one man’s atonement for every man for all time.  The requirements of this blood are clearly defined in the life and teachings of Jesus.  Most everything He did was to help us understand the purpose of His death, the value of laying down your life—even when you are innocent and not deserving any punishment, especially not deserving death.

            Christian martyrs do not die for the sake of hastening judgment to nonbelievers.  They die to show the ultimate love and to bring others to the knowledge of salvation.  Islamic martyrs, on the other hand, die with the aim of bringing themselves to paradise while killing the enemies of God.  Therein lies the distinction—Christianity’s God reaches out to men to redeem them, reserving judgment for death.  Islam’s God looks to judge all men immediately, hastening death when it is necessary.

           Islam’s blood does not bring atonement.  In fact, one of the problems with Islam is that there is no atonement.  Believers live in constant doubt as to whether paradise is waiting for them.  This increases the likelihood that they will see the need to shed innocent blood—of course, there is no such thing as innocent blood to a Muslim because all non-Muslims are by definition infidels and therefore not innocent, but worthy of death.

            Therefore, at their core these great religions are different.  They have a different worldview that determines how man is redeemed and how God responds to man.  As much as we might wish that these two great forces were compatible, they are not.  Both seek world domination.  Christianity is looking for world domination through the conversion of souls through persuasive speech and theology.  Islam is looking for world domination through any means necessary, including killing off anyone who does not believe.

            Hardly a choice as far as religion is concerned.

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Books Worth Reading

C.S. LEWIS--Mere Christianity; CLAIRE BERLINSKI--Menace in Europe: Why the Continent's Crisis is America's Crisis, Too; BRUCE BAWER--While Europe Slept: How Radical islam is Destroying the West from Within; DAVID LEVERING LEWIS--God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215; THOMAS SCHIRRMACHER--The Persecution of Christians Concerns Us All; PHILIP JENKINS--God's Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe's Religious Crisis

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