Why Remember the Martyrs?

In an attempt to raise awareness about the Turkish martyrs, I sent their story to a religion writer at the Dallas Morning News. He posted links to reports about them on the Dallas Morning News religion blog: “The killing of Christians in Turkey.”

Unfortunately, one of the other religion writers at the Dallas Morning News got rankled by my concern for the martyrs. His frustration with me is posted here: “With all due respect to Professor Burk.” This reporter’s main problem with my efforts is that he thinks I am paying too little attention to all the suffering in the world. The murder of three Christians is not such a big story in light of the wars and genocides that occur daily around the globe.

One thing is for certain. I do pay too little attention to those who are suffering around the world. For that matter, I pay too little attention to suffering Christians around the world. I feel the burden of their suffering too infrequently, and I pray too little. For all of that, I repent. Lord, have mercy on me, the sinner.

So why the focus on these three murdered men? I’m not drawing attention to the suffering of the three Turkish martyrs because I think Christians are the only persecuted people, nor is it because I think their martyrdom outweighs the mass of human suffering around the world. As a matter of fact, I am overwhelmed when I think about the atrocities and the tragedies of daily life on planet earth. There aren’t enough tears for the grief due to the afflictions of humanity. One can only pray, “Maranatha.”

Nevertheless, there are important reasons for Christians in particular to mark the deaths of those martyred for Christ. First, the one who dies for Christ offers the world an embodied picture of Christ’s own suffering (Philippians 3:10). Second, the martyr’s death teaches us that Christ and His kingdom are more valuable and precious than anything. The martyr is not cowed by death, but by faith can see past it to the reward of resurrection. Christ is more precious than riches, relationships, or even life (Matthew 13:44-46). Thus the martyr shows the world that death is gain for the one who has faith in Christ (Mark 8:35; Philippians 1:21). Third, John’s apocalypse teaches that there is a fixed number of people that God has chosen for martyrdom. It is only after this number is completed that Jesus comes back to set the world to rights (Revelation 6:9-11). Anyone who longs for peace and justice on earth will only find that desire fulfilled when the Lord returns. Thus while every martyrdom is an occasion for grief, they are also a reminder that the glorious day of the Lord is hastening on.

So we mark the deaths of Tilman Geske, Necati Aydin, and Ugar Yuksel. We thank the Lord for their testimony to the supreme value of Christ over all things. And we thank God for the promise that He will one day make all things new. And we pray again:

Come soon, Lord Jesus. We need you to come very soon, indeed.

10 Responses to Why Remember the Martyrs?

  1. Chad Ethridge May 3, 2007 at 9:31 am #

    Denny,

    Glad to have stumbled upon your blog site. Appreciate your comments on this glorious tragedy that God has ordained. The scriptures you mentioned will help me in talking through this with others in my peer group.

    Chad

  2. Wonders for Oyarsa May 3, 2007 at 1:48 pm #

    This is like saying it is hypocritical of you to make such a big deal when your wife dies of cancer, since people die of cancer all the time. Why did you choose just then to focus on the havoc cancer causes?

  3. Vegas Art Guy May 3, 2007 at 6:10 pm #

    It’s nice to see I’m not the only one interested in this brutal crime. Again we get to see the face of evil in the world. The question is do we run or do we confront it?

  4. Patrick May 4, 2007 at 1:29 am #

    Thank you for your humility in thinking this through and clearly delineating the important reasons for why we should sit up and take notice of these three men. Excellent thoughts.

  5. KathleenM May 5, 2007 at 1:18 am #

    How exactly are these three men “martyrs”? Martyrs are given the choice of death or renunciating their faith — the choice of death over life is precisely what makes them a martyr. These men, while their deaths are tragic, did not voluntarily choose death — death was thrust upon them. That makes them victims of murder; it doesn’t make them martyrs.

  6. KathleenM May 5, 2007 at 1:26 am #

    Burk writes: “Third, John’s apocalypse teaches that there is a fixed number of people that God has chosen for martyrdom. It is only after this number is completed that Jesus comes back to set the world to rights (Revelation 6:9-11).”

    Wow. So, according to your holy book, your god is busily tallying up the number of Christian corpses saying “Just 324,674 more dead bodies to go, then it’s showtime!”. And this is the guy who’s on your side?

    Kinda like a Holy Telethon of the Macabre, eh?

  7. Trish May 5, 2007 at 9:35 am #

    tr.v. mar·tyred, mar·tyr·ing, mar·tyrs
    1. To make a martyr of, especially to put to death for devotion to religious beliefs.
    2. To inflict great pain on; torment.

    Kathleen, the way I read this definition for martyrs, these men can definitely be identified as martyrs.

    I am glad to see that you are reading a website such as Denny’s and hope it arouses more interest in you to find out more about what he writes and why he writes it. I hope you will go to the source he uses and confirm for yourself what it says. I hope that you are inquisitive enough to continue reading this book so you will be more fully informed about the God we know and love. I hope that as you are reading, you will see His great love and realize that His words are truth and the truth can set you free and that you will someday accept this freedom, given to you as a free gift, yours for the taking, having done nothing to warrant such a gift.

    I am forever thankful that my God operates in ways I will never understand, that somehow He takes such tragedy, such suffering, such pain, and turns it to good. If I had to look at an event such as this without having His perspective I would see no hope, no good, that could possibly come of something like this. But, because His ways are not my ways, and His thoughts are not my thoughts, I have hope that He is at work in this tragedy, that He is even at work in you because He brought you here to this website where people here can dialog with you and answer any questions you may have about our God. We will all gladly, lovingly, and gently, share our faith with you. All you need to do is ask.

    Love in Christ,
    Trish

  8. KathleenM May 5, 2007 at 11:52 am #

    Dictionary.com defines martyr as:
    ‘a person who willingly suffers death rather than renounce his or her religion.’

    American Heritage Dictionary defines martyr as:
    ‘One who chooses to suffer death rather than renounce religious principles.’

    That would make these men victims of a hate crime, but not martyrs.

  9. Darlene Bocek May 8, 2007 at 9:47 am #

    3 people out of 3500 Christians in Turkey is proportionately….

    As if 7000 of the whole State of New York were slaughtered one-right-after-the-other in a bloodthirsty way.

    3 people…
    Of whom ONE gave up his comfortable life to live in another country because there was NO LIGHT there to train believers and to preach the gospel…

    Of whom ONE was a mature, evangelizing, Bible-school trained pastor in a country of only a handful of mature believers able-to-lead and able-to-teach…

    Of whom ONE was being raised up to be available for a pastoral position…

    Of the three men who were the leaders of the ONLY church in Malatya (a region of 381,000) and two potential leaders, three were killed, one was the first to the scene of the crime, leaving only one foreigner who can lead, but can not safely stay because of newspaper threats.

    What would that mean? Take all the pastors of New York and kill 66% of them. The other 33% make a target by telling where they live and putting pictures of their kids in the paper. Then take all the potential pastors and kill 50% of them, traumatize 50% of them.

    One pastor of 90 pastors in Turkey was killed. Take 10 out of every 900 pastors in New York.

    You want to know why they are true Martyrs? Look at their fingers. Flayed fingers is the means of torture advocated by the Koran to persuade someone to convert (back) to Islam.

    008.012
    YUSUFALI: Remember thy Lord inspired the angels (with the message): “I am with you: give firmness to the Believers: I will instil terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them.”

    PICKTHAL: When thy Lord inspired the angels, (saying): I am with you. So make those who believe stand firm. I will throw fear into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Then smite the necks and smite of them each finger.

    SHAKIR: When your Lord revealed to the angels: I am with you, therefore make firm those who believe. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.

    (From http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/quran/008.qmt.html)

    I hope these facts and analogies give you an understanding of what a tremendous loss it was for us here in Turkey.

    It wasn’t 3 men. It was unequivocally more.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Denny Burk » Why Remember the Martyrs? (Part 2) - May 4, 2007

    […] I wrote yesterday that Christians have a particular interest in marking the deaths of the church’s martyrs (see “Why Remember the Martyrs?”). But I certainly don’t expect that reporters for secular newspapers will have the same reasons for giving “extra attention” to these deaths that Christians do. Reporters (even religion writers) work from a different metanarrative than Christians, and that metanarrative determines what is newsworthy and what is not. For some of them, the martyrdom of three Christians will appear as a drop in the ocean of suffering in the world. From that perspective, their question makes sense: “Why focus on the drop and ignore the ocean?” […]

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