As a response to the growing persecution globally of the Christian faith and followers of Christ, I have felt led to write a short series on Christian Martyrdom. Remember, I am not a theologian and this is not meant to be a piece of academic prose. I am merely a curious child of the Living God, eager to learn more about those that have gone before me and were led to death for being followers of Jesus Christ. To see my introduction to this series – visit ‘Reflecting on Christian Martyrdom #1′.
I wanted to share the martyrdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero who was assassinated 35 years ago yesterday (24th March 2015). He was only recently declared a martyr by Pope Francis in February this year, and I thought it would be an opportunity to share his story as part of my Reflecting on Christian Martyrdom short series. Also, this has been in the headlines recently and I enjoy sharing aspects of the Christian faith in the news.
Who Was Archbishop Oscar Romero?
Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez was a prominent Roman Catholic priest in El Salvador, Central America, during the 1960s and 1970s who spoke out against those who were violating human rights, and he stood up for the poor and those who were victims of repression (UN Biography on Archbishop Romero). He was shot dead whilst celebrating Mass after he had spoken against US military support for the government of El Salvador and called for soldiers to disobey orders to shoot innocent civilians.
Oscar Romero was prepared to be a martyr. His words inspire me today as the persecution of Christians gets worse across the world. He stated:
“As a Christian, I do not believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me, I shall rise again in the Salvadoran people.”
His faith in Christ and his certainty in a new life after death kept him focused on eternity despite the possibility of assassination. It is clear that he loved the nation that he was a part of and was willing to die to make it a better place. He fully believed that his sacrifice could help better his people and encourage them to keep on challenging the injustices that he spoke out against so fervently.
Reflecting on Oscar Romero’s Martyrdom
I am deeply encouraged by Archbishop Oscar Romero’s example of standing up for justice and defending the rights of the oppressed and poor. In Psalm 82:3 it says ‘Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.’ The life of Oscar Romero demonstrates this clearly. He was a true man of faith who acted out against what he could see was damaging the people in his country. Are we willing to do the same? Would we stand up against gross injustice at the risk of losing our very life? Could we make that sacrifice?
Today, we should remember that God is with us as we take a step of faith to stand up for what is good and just. As we act justly (in a just manner; honestly; fairly) and love mercy (compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one’s power; compassion, pity, or benevolence), we must also remember to walk humbly with God. We cannot do the other two (act justly and love mercy) without Him! He gives us the strength to do the very things that we may struggle with or find difficult. He provides us with the words and courage to be bold and speak out against oppressors and those who violate the poor.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
We know what is good because He has revealed it to us through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus led a blameless life so that we may come to Him in our weakness and struggles and be renewed. We can know God personally because of Jesus.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6-7)
When we know this truth, we are able to face the prospect of martyrdom because our reward is not on earth or awarded by the hands of men. Our reward is in heaven with Jesus seated at the right hand of the Father. I pray that I can be bold and stand up for the truth in the face of persecution. There is a need to stand up for what is right in our communities and in our nation. Sometimes, we may have to stand up against a government like Oscar Romero did at great personal cost. Maybe we have to be the voice that says ‘no’ to persecution. We can be the hands that reach out to give to the poor and comfort those who are oppressed. We must be courageous right where we are today.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12)
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