A friend and I recently had a discussion about the tragic event that occurred in Kenya where at least 39 people were killed, allegedly because they refused to state they were Muslim. Had they said they were Muslim they would have been able to go free. Who has the greater sin, the one who kills and threatens to kill if you don’t believe the same as they do or the one who lies and says they do so they can go free? Conversely, how great is the good of not denying your faith?
I argued the position that it would have been okay for them to lie to go free because no one has a right to threaten your life based on your religious beliefs. I’ve done some reading about the Catholic position about whether lying is ever right, such as when protecting someone Jewish from a Nazi. To review the article I read, visit: http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/is-lying-ever-right
My friend argued conversely, bringing to mind the Scripture verse where Jesus states that anyone who denies or disowns Him before men would be denied by the angels and by His Father in heaven. He also argued that if there were no martyrs there would be no Church, as it has often been their blood that draws people to the Church, the very seed of new disciples. Certainly this is true, and those who have died through not denying their faith have acted honorably and with nobility beyond measure –they’ve forfeited their very life as a witness to who is the Son of God, Jesus our Lord. What more could they possibly give of themselves?
In addition to the heroic deeds of the martyrs, I believe the soldiers who have and are dying to protect the freedoms we often take for granted in America also die in a noble and honorable way, for beliefs that we all benefit from, beliefs that uphold God given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Looking back nearly 250 years, in part, it was the massive amount of bloodshed between Catholics and Protestants that led to our country being formed in such a way that a person would be free to have their own religious beliefs, providing they don’t harm another person. And yet, nowhere in the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is it even remotely suggested that the growth of His Church be based on killing others… in fact, it’s quite the opposite –Jesus said that he who lives by the sword dies by it, and when James and John asked Jesus if they should call fire down from heaven to destroy the Samaritan’s who opposed them on their way to Jerusalem, Jesus rebuked them and they went on to another village.
The Gospel of Love given to us by the Trinity inspired many of our founding Fathers, including George Washington. A few weeks ago I had the privilege of visiting Mt. Vernon and being a part of the wreath laying ceremony, where we said the pledge of allegiance, read a prayer he wrote and laid a wreath upon his tomb.
During this trip a friend of mine and I discussed Mason beliefs. I brought up the discussion because awhile earlier it was brought to my attention that those who practice Freemasonry are taught to deny any belief except that of brotherhood. I’m not sure if this is true, but it seems to make sense, especially in a world where Catholics and Protestants are slaughtering each other. This was precisely the atmosphere Europe was emerging from when America was founded. Does it also make sense to say that you’re Muslim to avoid having someone kill you? Should that person have a right to threaten your life and ask you what you believe in the first place?
Jesus gave his life as the price for our sins, the debt owed for our injustice committed against God’s Divine Law. He also gave His life because He believed that He is the Son of God, the crime that led to His crucifixion. He lives on, not only as a leader, but as the person He claimed to be –He lives in and through me and all those who believe in Him, He lives because He is the author of life itself. No power or principality will ever change that.
I’m prepared to die believing that Jesus is the Son of God. But, I would argue that those who would deny this belief in the clear face of death, so that they may live another day and profess the Gospel and potentially put an end to the injustice that would put them in that type of situation in the first place, will do fine. They may be thought of as cowardly and dishonest, they may despise and hate themselves for the rest of their life, but who are we to judge them and dispute their right to protect their own life? St. Peter denied Jesus three times. Later, he affirmed his love for Him three times.
Those who have given their life for Him, those who will do so tomorrow, they are assuredly welcomed into His loving arms. Whether a non-Muslim would lie and walk away deceptively as a Muslim or tell the truth and be killed, we all will face some kind of end, some kind of transformation that may occur in the blink of an eye. For those of us who believe in Him, He has assured us we will never taste death.
We live in a fallen world. I believe America has the capacity to change the world for the better by helping to protect our God given right to life and liberty. No one can totally fix this fallen world, no one but Jesus, who starts by fixing the human heart at the deepest levels of its brokenness.