A better question than “What would you die for?”
Vladimir Lenin, the communist revolutionary, once wrote:
“Every religious idea, every idea of God, even flirting with the idea of God, is unutterable vileness of the most dangerous kind, contagion of the most abominable kind. Millions of sins, filthy deeds, acts of violence and physical contagion are far less dangerous than the subtle spiritual idea of a God.”
With that quote as context, you can understand why the communists tortured faithful believers in more creatively-cruel ways than men and women of conscience can imagine.
Richard Wurmbrand, a Romanian pastor of the Underground Church during the communist revolution in Russia, provides a glimpse of these unthinkable atrocities in his chilling book, Tortured for Christ:
“A pastor by the name of Florescu was tortured with red-hot iron pokers and with knives. He was beaten very badly. Then starving rats were driven into his cell through a large pipe. He could not sleep…If he rested a moment, the rats would attack him…
“The communists wished to compel him to betray his brethren, but he resisted steadfastly.
“In the end, they brought his fourteen-year-old son and began to whip the boy in front of his father, saying that they would continue to beat him until the pastor said what they wished him to say…
“When he could not stand it any more, he cried to his son; ‘Alexander, I must say what they want! I can’t bear your beating any more.’
“The son answered, ‘Father, don’t do me the injustice to have a traitor as a parent. Withstand!…’
“The communists, enraged, fell upon the child and beat him to death, with blood spattered over the walls of the cell. He died praising God…”
Today you and I are not under threat of torture for our beliefs. In some ways, this is actually a greater test of faith.
What we choose to do with our lives, when free and comfortable, reveals more about the depth of our convictions than how we die, when captive and tortured. We show our true colors not by how we react to captivity, but how we choose to use our freedom.
Herman Hesse put it bluntly:
“You are willing to die, you coward, but not to live.”
Long before they were beaten, tortured, and murdered, Pastor Florescu and his son lived their beliefs. Their heroic deaths were but exclamation points at the end of the valiant sentences of their lives.
How many “patriots” who proclaim their willingness to fight and die for freedom are willing to cancel their cable TV subscription and read a book per week? What good would their deaths do if, in their daily lives, they are unwilling to do the most basic things necessary to maintain freedom?
What matters most isn’t how you’ll react when everything is forcefully taken from you, but what you’ll voluntarily sacrifice now for the sake of your cause.
What the world desperately needs is not your heroic death, but your courageous life. You change the world less by conquering external captors than by conquering your internal fears and weaknesses.
You have the courage to face destroyers in times of crisis. But do you have the courage to create in times of peace?
“…creativity is dangerous. We cannot open ourselves to new insight without endangering the security of our prior assumptions. We cannot propose new ideas without risking disapproval and rejection. Creative achievement is the boldest initiative of mind, an adventure that takes its hero simultaneously to the rim of knowledge and the limits of propriety. Its pleasure is not the comfort of a safe harbor, but the thrill of the reaching sail.” -Robert Grudin in The Grace of Great Things
You know how you will react when a gun is put to your head. But how will you act today when no one is forcing you to do anything?
What risks do you need to take in life that prove your willingness to die? What cause are you willing to die for? What are you doing to live for it today?
Don’t proclaim what you’ll die for. Demonstrate what you’ll live for.