I’ve had the opportunity this week to dip into a book with subject matter I don’t usually read about, unless it’s in the New Testament book of Acts. In the present day, even though this may be hard for many Americans to imagine, Christians do lose their lives for the faith they embrace.
Bearing Witness: Stories of Martyrdom and Costly Discipleship is a new book from Plough Publishing which shares the stories of those martyred for their Christian faith. Starting all the way back with Stephen and moving through the centuries up to the present day, editors Charles E. Moore and Timothy Keiderling have written accounts of 36 Christian martyrs (or groups of martyrs) from the following four time periods:
- Early Christians
- Radical Reformers
- Early Modern Witnesses
- Recent Witnesses
Written from the Protestant perspective, and specifically from the Anabaptist tradition, Bearing Witness recounts the lives and deaths of Christians who were committed to the principles of the “believer’s baptism and …nonresistance” (Bearing Witness, p. xi); “nonviolence and love of enemy even in the most extreme circumstances” (Bearing Witness, p. xii). We think of the idea of nonresistance most, perhaps, with Martin Luther King, Jr., and the American civil rights movement. However, Christian nonresistance and sometimes, martyrdom, have occurred over the centuries since the first recorded Christian martyr, Stephen.
So whom will you meet….and whose stories will you be introduced to? Well, from the Early Christians section, you’ll meet Polycarp (of Smyrna), Perpetua (Carthage), Andronicus (of Cilicia, or Turkey), Justin Martyr (Rome). From the Reformation era, Jan Hus; William Tyndale; the Hutters; Dirk Willems. In the Early Modern Witnesses (from the 1700s on), you’ll meet Ahn Ei Sook; Veronika Lohans; Jacob Hochstetler; Emanuel Swartzendruber. And in the Recent Witnesses segment, dating from the 1940s on, there are Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand (Romania), Stanimir Katanic (Yugoslavia), Samuel Kakesa (Congo), Sarah Corson (Bolivia), and many more. All of these suffered tremendously for their faith, or even lost their lives.
Why do we as Christians need to read this book? First, it is the recorded historical accounts of those who stood for their Christian faith, regardless of the cost. Second, to remind ourselves that nonviolence is indeed a method of standing against persecution. Third? To be encouraged and to increase our own faith. And fourth; that we might know what has happened over the centuries in the Church, and what is still happening today across the world.
I personally recommend Bearing Witness for adult readers. Definitely read it; then you’ll know how much and which portions of the book to share with your own children, depending on their ages and sensitivity. It is worth your while to read.
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If you’d like to purchase a copy of this book, click on this link: http://www.plough.com/en/topics/faith/witness/bearing-witness- stories-of-martyrdom?s=i-fp
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