The Faith of the Martyrs

The news from Afghanistan is dire. Some may ask, where is God in this? Others know that regardless of the horrible news, that God is present. He works in ways that we often do not understand. But we can always trust that God is present and in control.

In his book, Beginning to Pray, Anthony Bloom, a Russian refugee and later an Orthodox archbishop, relates a Russian Church war story of two young women in Russia during the years of Russia’s civil war. They were neighbors in a small town under Imperial control when it fell into the hands of the Red army. One of the women was a mother of two children, ages 4 and 5. If caught, she and the children would be killed by the Red army as her husband fought for the opposing army. Thus, she hid with the children in an abandoned house hoping for them all to escape death. One evening her neighbor, Natalie, another young woman of her age, early twenties, knocked on the door and asked her if she was “so and so.” They did not know each other. When the young mother answered yes, Natalie told her she must immediately escape because she had been discovered and they were coming to shoot her. The young mother said that she could not leave because she had the children. The response was, “You can because I will stay behind and call myself by your name when they come to fetch you.” The mother replied, “But you will be shot.” The answer came quickly, “Yes, but I have no children.” The women switched places and the young mother and her children quickly fled. (p. 20–21).

The neighbor, Natalie, laid down her life for the young mother and her children. As she waited for death, one can only imagine her prayers and her faith. For she waited alone for death to come at the hands of the Red army, knowing only Jesus’ words, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13.

The stories of the martyrs are many. There are more martyrs today than ever. Their stories give us context for our faith and our actions. The word martyr in Greek means witnesses. The martyrs are witnesses to our faith and the love and presence of Jesus in our world despite the terrors that exist. The Russian Church was systemically persecuted with physical violence, death, and propaganda for 50 years. At the end of 50 years, the Church had an estimated membership of 30 million churchgoers. In part, their growth grew from the actions of Natalie. There are many Natalies today working to spread God’s love.

Our prayers and actions fuel the growth of the Church. Our faith is fueled by hearing the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). The Holy Spirit abides in all believers and gives us the ability to witness in love and truth. (See, John 15). Listen to the Word of God, have faith, and know that God has a plan for us, Afghanistan, and the world greater than any we could imagine. Praise be to the Father, Son and Holy Spirt.

The Lord’s peace be with you.