Start Playing The Martyr

I am quite partial to melancholy, to wallowing in self pity, feeling sorry for myself. There are various terms one can use to describe the act of introspective navel gazing. When the odds are stacked against me, and everything is going belly up, you can be guaranteed I’ll throw myself the mother of all pity parties. Fionnuala sums it up most succinctly when she catches me in this state of mind.

‘Stop playing the martyr….’

Which is ironic as I am named after the first Christian martyr, Stephen. The above phrase is largely associated with negative behaviour. It refers to a person who is overreacting to a given situation, behaving in an inappropriate or immature manner. I know when Fionnuala levels the comment at me I invariably stop what I’m doing and concede that I’m being a prat.

The word martyr is derived from the Latin, martur, meaning ‘witness.’ It is a person who is willing to sacrifice their life for a belief they adhere to; be that religious, political or for any other number of reasons. It is regarded as a noble, heroic act; laying down one’s life rather than capitulate or conform to values that fly in the face of everything you represent. Martyrs should be revered, not ridiculed.

Stephen was such a man. Facing the Sanhedrin, a collection of hostile Jewish leaders, on trumped up charges of blasphemy, he features very briefly in the Book of Acts. But what a show stopping appearance. Rather than bend the knee and renounce his faith, instead he eloquently and articulately gave testimony to, or witnessed, his belief that Jesus was the Son of God, who they rejected and murdered.

As well as eloquence, intelligence and a detailed knowledge of scripture, he displayed remarkable courage. He fronted up to them, exposing them as ‘stiff necked’ hypocrites, whose ‘hearts and ears are still circumcised.’ He spoke the truth and the only way they could stop the truth, was through stoning him to death. A young man named Saul, held their cloaks as they did so.

Stephen features for just over two pages in my 1250 page Bible, yet he sits shoulder to shoulder with giants of the faith such as Abraham, Moses and David. He set an example for millions of other Christians who followed in his bloody footsteps, willing to risk everything as opposed to renounce the faith. Stephen inspired Peter and Paul, the two fathers of the early Church.

Don’t be afraid to play the martyr, but do it for the right reasons. Don’t pout and sulk like I do, because you don’t get your own way. Instead hold your head up high, like Stephen did to the Sanhedrin, standing tall for what he believed in. Because when he looked up, he saw beyond the hate filled expressions and expletives and saw Heaven open to reveal the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.

Martyrdom today is linked to acts of terror or selfishness. Stephen epitomised the true meaning of the act. He was a visible witness, a presence, a voice, speaking love and truth over those who despised him. His last words were akin to those of Jesus, seeking forgiveness for those who killed him. We all can learn from Stephen. A martyr in the truest sense of the word.

The story of Stephen can be found in Acts Chapters 6-7.

Do you play the martyr? In the selfish or selfless sense? Or possibly both?

What do you learn from the story of Stephen?

38 thoughts on “Start Playing The Martyr

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  1. I call it playing the victim. I sometimes have to remind my husband that he is not powerless and can makes his own decisions. He is not a victim. We don’t live in some third world country with no freedom or resources. We are very, very blessed! I have to remind myself, too, lol.
    James reminds us of this hard to understand concept. 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4 NIV

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          1. Yes sir, B12 is a very important vitamin for those of us with anxiety and depression and unwanted thoughts. Get the methylated type. I’m hoping to get the blog written soon. It’s about my husband and I running a trail race together.

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  2. Oh man, I was talking about playing the martyr just the other day in the negative connotation. My codependency is so deeply ingrained, but I’m slowly starting to root it out.

    I love that you’re flipping it on its head with this post! As I’ve come to truly believe in this God of the Bible, I have more boldness to proclaim His Truth without hesitation!

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  3. I’ve had bad luck throwing pity parties – I’m usually the only one that shows up. :/
    I find it particularly interesting in the story of Stephen that his enemies actually covered their ears and screamed at the top of their lungs. (Translation: “I can’t hear you, LALALALA!!!”) Willful ignorance is still rampant in this world. I pity those people, not the martyrs.

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  4. Inspiring Stephen. Just think of it. Stephen had so much hope. So much future. He would of made a great apostle, teacher, leader, etc. But, his life was cut short. But, the next great leader of the church was standing right there holding the coats and giving approval. His death we still talk about today. Stephen had no idea the impact he would have, but he was faithful, even unto death. What a witness.

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  5. Don’t you wonder how many times Saul/Paul saw the vision of Stephen in his mind? Surely Stephen’s testimony played a part in Saul’s conversion. He is definitely a role model to follow. I’m thankful for all those who stand so strong…that great cloud of witnesses Hebrews talks about. Please, pray for some missionary friends of mine who are dealing with some great persecution. Thank you.

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  6. I love the story of Stephen. My mother is a martyr – or at least she THINKS she is. But she is a narcissist too, so I take her with a pinch of salt! Some people are really goid actors or actresses, but there are some true martyrs around today, I believe. Not in a dramatic way, but in a very quiet way, just quietly bringing God’s Kingdom in. Great post here. I only just found it.

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