Lent Course 2008: Christ on Trial

God's Spies: Believers on Trial

In the Second Century Martyrdom became an instrument of unity and a means of theological reflection. The chief offence was to refuse to see the sacred in instruments of power which is why they were called "atheists". "Martyrdom only begins to make sense if you believe in an 'invisible' god, because it takes for granted that Christian actions are not directed at any visible reward"; for the martyr it is not the power that commands but the power that saves which counts.

Martyrdom frequently triggered competition and also engendered revenge, promising divine retribution for earthly shortcoming. It is as if Jesus has been forgotten and the pattern of power has been resumed.

Today the questions and the mode of resistance are less clear. Martyrdom is about freedom not heroism; but how is this freedom to be realised in mundane life? We have to eschew the dramatic and make art of everyday living. Yet amid the boredom we are frightened. the most used phrase of Jesus is "do not be afraid" and the art of daily life is living without fear and remaining vigilant in a society which is accountable but elusive.

Williams, Rowan Christ on Trial (Zondervan, December 2000)