I must admit, I am no heavenly man!
As I read the testimonies of other believers and heard sermons about great faith heroes, I realized that I was not one of them. I daydreamed about Luther and his courage to stand up for what he believed. I imagined him in front of the colorfully dressed, high-ranking clerics of the Diet of Worms, unshaken, strong, and confident. I could picture him saying his famous lines in a loud, confident tone:
Unless I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture, or by the clearest reasoning, unless I am persuaded by means of the passages I have quoted, and unless they thus render my conscience bound by the Word of God, I cannot and will not retract, for it is unsafe for a Christian to speak against his conscience.
But as for me, these lines from Pablo Neruda's poem "We Are Many" have always been more appropriate:
All the books I read lionize dazzling hero figures,
always brimming with self-assurance.
I die with envy of them;
and, in films where bullets fly on the wind,
I am left in envy of the cowboys,
left admiring even the horses.
Twice, I came close to giving up my faith. On one of those occasions, I genuinely doubted whether or not Jesus was worth all the pain, and on the other I struggled with my commitment to work in the Middle East and the continuous price I pay, when I could have easily settled into a comfortable Christian life in a Western country.
The Average Persecuted Christian
Statements such as, "More Christians have died for their faith in the 20th century than in all other centuries of church history combined," and, "It is estimated that two-thirds of all the martyrs in Christian history died in the 20th century," are frequently ...1