Dying to Live – Br. Curtis Almquist
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The scholarly journal, the “International Bulletin of Mission Research,” has for more than thirty years compiled an annual table of Christian martyrs. The journal defines martyrs as “believers in Christ who have lost their lives prematurely, in situations of witness, as a result of human hostility.”
Martyr. The journal’s estimate: in the last 10 years, 900,000 Christians have been killed worldwide for their witness to Christ. That’s, on average, 90,000 Christians martyred each year during this past decade.[i]
The English word “martyr” comes from both Latin and Greek, the word “martyr” translated as “witness.” May we be spared shedding our blood as a martyr; nonetheless, there will be countless occasions to give “witness” to Christ. There will be more than a few opportunities for us to “lay down our life” for someone, another child of God, probably even today. The invitation may not be in an act of heroism – no shedding of blood – but more likely in a very mundane and rather hidden way.
Certain people who – as we say – absolutely “kill us,” we will have the occasion to show kindness or to forgive. We will be invited, undoubtedly, to offer the generosity of our tried patience; the withholding of our judgment; the readiness to be helpful and not hurtful, or retiring or rebuffing; the opportunity to bless and not to curse. Not everyone, we pray, will face John the Baptist’s fate; but all of us who profess Jesus as our Lord and Savior will be invited to die more than once, maybe more than once even today. To die. Jesus said, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it will not bear fruit.”[ii] We’re to be fruitful. Something will need to die for us to be fruitful. Whether it be something great or something puny that we are sorely tempted to clutch at and save at all costs may need to die. It may be some image of ourselves, some impression, or decision, or resolution, or privilege, or fear, or time that we feel is our rightful possession. It’s going to get in the way of life, what Jesus calls “abundant life,” if we don’t let it go, don’t surrender it, don’t let it die.[iii] Today will probably be a “killer” in the working out of our salvation and in our claiming the “abundant life” promised by Jesus.
In the SSJE Brothers’ Rule of Life, we speak of our identification with martyrdom, not because we are monks, but because we are baptized. In our baptismal vows, we profess that we “have died with Christ and are raised with him.” Jesus promises us resurrection power. We have to die before we rise, before we can claim his resurrection power. Die, again, and again, and again, we must die.
[i] See the International Bulletin of Mission Research, 2018 study: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2396939317739833
[ii] John 12:24.
[iii] Jesus speaks of “abundant life” in John 10:10.
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I woke up this morning thinking about this very thing. Dying to self desires, self comforts, self wants, and even self needs. All of these sometime necessary losses for the sake of another child of God / family member, amount to nothing compared with the rewards of intimacy with Jesus. I am 68 and am just now starting to “get it”. Thank you Brother Curtis, your thoughts never fail to be profound and deeper than mere words.
It might need to be our pride, always being right, insisting on position, precedence, grievance or title….the list is endless. What a useful reminder to us that “we are dust and to dust we shall return, yet even at the grave we make our song, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.” Thank you for this timely and life giving reminder. Elizabeth Hardy+
Thank you for today’s word: I’m 75, and it’s only this last year I’ve been starting to ‘get it’.
“Something will need to die for us to be fruitful.”. For me, this is one of the absolute truths of life. I’ve come to understand that it’s not morbid, not even sad. Maybe sometimes hard, very hard, but always worth it.
I fully agree with your comment. I saved an excerpt from a Richard Rohr post that goes well with todays reading “To pray Your Kingdom Come means my kingdoms have to go” …so true,
Yes! When I first read that in Rohr’s writings, it’s something I wrote down and kept to memory and remind myself all the time that that is how it must be. We cannot have two kingdoms! But’s it an every day, every moment choice, and again, always worth it.