With increasing regularity, I am seeing phrases such as: ‘we must be willing to lay down our lives for Christ.’  Virtually always, this phrase is then attached to the Christian holding on to his Faith, clinging to his Christ, even in the midst of terrible persecution, even to the point of death.  Obviously, we see exactly this in the Holy Scriptures.  Christ promises that the world will hate us even as it hated Him.  We then see this lived out in the lives of the Apostles, who are stoned and beaten and tortured, and all but one eventually martyred.  Holding on to our Faith in Christ in the midst of persecution has been a basic reality for Christians in at least some part of the world since the time of Christ.
But I have a concern with the frequent use of this phrase as I am seeing it right now.  My concern can be explained to be something like: do we think of laying down our life for Christ only in terms of literal physical death, while not applying it to our lives daily, as the Scriptures and the Saints teach us?
It is very easy for us, both psychologically and spiritually, to look to a particular “event,” and in doing so to escape the struggle that is going on in our lives right now.  In other words, to speak about the resolve and the faith that we have and how that will support us in martyrdom, but then to fail to offer ourselves daily as a sacrifice to Christ.  The daily dying, the daily laying down our lives, setting aside our sins – this is the constant martyrdom that we as Christians should be undertaking every single day of our lives.  When the Fathers teach us about the Holy Martyrs, they tell us that the Martyrs were able to undergo the tortures and being put to death precisely because they lived in Christ!  They had already been martyred in Christ – it was no longer they who lived, but Christ lived in them (Gal. 2:20). 
So this then, is our daily sacrifice.  Regardless of exterior persecutions, we are to persecute sin in our flesh.  We are to constantly see the sin within us, repent, and return our lives to Christ.  This is hard; this is a struggle; this is often unpleasant.  But it must be done.  We are to put off the old man, the man of sin and death, and be clothed in the new man, righteous in Christ (Eph 4:22-24).  St. Paul even uses the image of martyrdom when describing this activity: “put to death your members which are on the earth” – put to death sin within you (Col. 3:2).  Remembering at all time that we cannot do this alone, rather “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).
An ending quotation from St. John of Kronstadt – “The loving Lord is here: how can I let even a shadow of evil enter into my heart? Let all evil completely die within me; let my heart be anointed with the sweet fragrance of goodness as with a balsam. Let God’s love conquer thee, thou evil Satan, instigating us to evil. Evil is most hurtful both to the mind and to the body. It burns, it crushes, and it tortures. No one bound by evil shall dare to approach the throne of the God of love.”olHH
May we join our efforts to the mercy and grace of our loving Lord, and escape the snares of evil around, and within, us!

Author Matthew Jackson

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