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.