Recently I was inspired as I read about the faithfulness of some Ethiopian Christians who were executed “for not paying jizya-extortion money demanded of the ‘People of the Book’ according to Koran 9:29 . . . and they refused the only other option that could have spared their lives according to Islamic law—renunciation of the Christian Trinity and conversion to Islam . . . In the summer of 2014, IS [Islamic State] issued a statement concerning Christian minorities, saying ‘We offer them three choices: Islam, the dhimma contract—involving payment of jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword.’” (Raymond Ibrahim, “Christians Accept Execution Rather Than Renounce Christ for Islam,” www.frontpagemag.com/2015/raymond-ibrahim/christians-accept-execution-rather-than-renounce-christ-for-islam/)
The brave attitudes and actions of these Christian martyrs reminded me of the brave attitude that the Apostle Peter and the other apostles of Jesus took as they stood before the Council in Jerusalem and were told: “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and behold you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. But Peter and the apostles answered and said. ‘We must obey God rather than men.’” (Acts 5:28-29 NASB)
The brave resistance of the Ethiopian Christians to renouncing their Christian faith also reminds me of the attitudes of some of God’s other heroes described in Hebrews 11: 35-38, some of them “were tortured, not accepting their release, in order that they might obtain a better resurrection . . .men of whom the world was not worthy.”
These and miliions of other brave Christian martyrs who maintain their Christian faith as they are being murdered will receive the reward promised by Jesus: “Be faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2: 10)
These faithful Christians will also be taken to Heaven, given white robes, and placed in a special spot around God’s throne where Jesus “will be their shepherd, and guide them to the springs of the water of life, and God shall wipe every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7: 17)
As Christians around the world are experiencing increasing amounts of persecution by fanatical members of other religions, they need to remember the above promises, as well as using their love for Jesus their Savior and using the power of the Holy Spirit to maintain their Christian testimony both as they go through their daily activities and when they are facing persecution and possible martyrdom.
If that time should come, then Christians can remember the description of the martyrdom of Saint Stephen who “being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, ‘Behold I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God . . . as he called upon the Lord and said, ‘Lord Jesus receive my spirit!’” (Acts 7: 55-59)