Saturday, April 22, 2017

martyrdom or suicide?

St Theodoret tells us about suicide today in A Year with the Church Fathers.

Before I go into what he said and what we can learn from it, I want to first say that I know people who have taken their own lives. And in most cases. people who do that today are victims of the chemicals in their own brains. They are not acting in full control of their faculties, and they have little or no guilt in their actions due to their greatly reduced control over their own actions. It's incredibly sad when this happens, and we can certainly pray for forgiveness for their actions and hope to see them in heaven one day.

That said, the difference we find in suicide vs martyrdom is hinted at in our reading. St Theodoret tells us about Christians who were commanded to either deny Jesus or cast themselves into the sea to drown. One man cast himself into the sea. The second man did neither, and waited for his violent end. Even though the first man chose not to deny Christ, he also made a mistake by taking his demise into his own hands. Besides the fact that we should always leave that decision to God, it also denies the possibility of being saved from the situation. If Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had chosen to kill themselves rather than worship the statue, they would not have experienced His protection in the fiery furnace.

These are serious matters, and not easy. There have been more martyrs in the last one hundred years than in the entire history of the world before that. Strange to think of that, isn't it? We tend to think of martyrdom as something the early church faced, but that we've put behind us. But there are many people who face that final decision today. And it's possible that we might have to face such a decision one day. Let's pray for the courage and grace to make the right choice.

God, thank You for teaching us the difference between martyrdom and suicide. Please protect us, and if that decision comes one day, give us the courage to choose correctly.