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Why Is Martyrdom Acceptable If We Are Suppose to Defend Ourselves?


Why is martyrdom acceptable for Jesus if we are suppose to defend ourselves from lethal foes?


Self-defense is a right that, like all other rights, can be refused to be used by a person. I have the right to speak my mind but can also remain silent. I have a right to remain silent but can choose to speak.

However, even in our refusal to use one of our rights we must have the proper intentions. I can morally refuse to eat in order to be sure my children eat, but I should not refuse to eat because I am depressed or have a poor self-image. The choice to refuse a right must be freely chosen and done for a greater good.

The Church has always cautioned against rash judgment in seeking martyrdom. The tradition was so strong against seeking or antagonizing others to execute you that the Council of Elvira (306) decreed that Christians executed for smashing the idols of the pagans were to be refused the title of martyr.

To be a martyr is to give witness to the faith through our life and choices even to the point of death. It is a free choosing of a greater good, it is not a desire to die. Christians seek to love God and neighbor and if those goods lead to death then so be it, but Christians are not to seek to die.

Jesus did not seek to die but he did accept it as a consequence of the Gospel (Matt. 26:39).

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