“Plures efficimur, quotiens metimur a vobis: semen est sanguis Christianorum.” While there arę more literał ways of translating Tertullian’s phrase here, the most famous expression of it is, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” This statement has reigned true throughout the centuries.
While martyrdom is not much of an issue in the American landscape, the rest of the world has seen plenty of it. Over the first 20 years of this century alone, 2.4 million Christians have been reported to be killed. And this, of course, has been a problem since the earliest days of Christianity. Indeed, the final book of the Bible reports martyrdom to be a consistent theme in the early church.
But despite the ultimatum of martyrdom, Tertullian’s words have been proved right. What seems as though it would be the end of the church only ever seems to create new beginnings and multiply it. The blood of the Christian goes in the ground and more Christians spring up from it. Crosses tend to be an effective strategy in church multiplication. So much so that I once heard a minister in Mozambique named Heidi Baker declare, “I’ve decided being martyred is the only way for me to go!” And she proclaimed that after having her life threatened many times. Her declaration has deeply convicted me since.
The persistence of Christianity through persecution and martyrdom is one of the signs of the reality of Christianity. We put our lives on the line not just because we believe in Christ, but because we have experienced Christ. A popular Jewish teacher, named Gamaliel, took note that these new Jewish-Christians were willing to suffer for Christ and warned his fellow brothers against persecuting them: “Other movements like this have happened before, but as soon as their leaders were killed, their disciples were scattered and their movement brought to nothing. So keep away from these men, for if this plan is of man, it will fail. But if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!”
But they didn’t leave them alone. And the church grew and thrived regardless.
*This devotional was created out of the themes of Acts 5:27-42 found in today’s reading at CommonPrayer.net.