There’s a question swirling inside me: Does 50 Shades of Grey really matter in light of the 21 beheaded Christians? Both stories are circulating in the Christian community, and are both the subjects of Christian bloggers, Christian commentators, and Christian readers. What happened on the beach in Libya to these Christians and what happens in Christian Grey’s “play room” are front and center right now.
So in light of these 21 young men losing their lives, does the “50 Shades” question really matter? Does it really matter if Christians watch it, does it matter if movie theaters run by Christians show it, and does it matter if Christian leaders speak up about it? This is the question I’m wrestling with.
They were Coptic Christians who had gone from Egypt to Libya to find work to support their families. But their names were on “the list,” so one day ISIS terrorists showed up, beat them, bound them, and took them away. And according to the director for Focus on the Family’s Middle East outreach, “in the days and weeks leading up to their deaths, their ISIS captors tortured them and attempted to persuade them to deny Jesus in return for living.”
But none of them did. They refused to deny Christ and were beheaded on that beach. But, says the director, “they died singing songs to Jesus.”
Whenever I hear stories of Christian martyrdom, I wonder if I’d choose the same. Had I been among the 21, would I have honored Christ or would I have denied him? Open Doors says that every month, about 180 Christians are killed for their faith and I’ve heard higher statistics of 300 per month. Whatever the number (and how can we be sure?), the fact is that every month, hundreds of our Christian brothers and sisters are choosing Christ over living.
And so does a movie really matter when people are losing their lives for Christ? Should the time and energy spent by Christian leaders in thinking, researching, writing, and speaking about 50 Shades of Grey be spent on more pressing issues? Should movie theatres run by Christians ask themselves if they should show the movie? And should Christians even worry about watching it?
Perhaps we are making too much of a little thing when we should we making more of bigger things. But then I think back to the 21.
Did they choose Christ just once or did they choose Christ every day?
It seems to me that martyrs aren’t made in the moment when the blade comes down, but rather in the everyday moments when they choose to honor Christ.
These blessed 21 did not wake up one day and decide to become martyrs, but instead woke up every day and decided to honor Christ. That’s what killed them—not the one big decision in a solitary moment, but the thousands of smaller decisions made throughout their days. They didn’t die this past weekend, they died all the days before.
When I read the Apostle Paul, I come across words like, “I die daily” (1 Cor. 15:31) and “to live is Christ, to die is gain” (Php. 1:21). And when I read Jesus, I read, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). These are daily die-ings to honor Christ.
So I am left with this conviction – every moment is an opportunity to honor Christ, so what seems like the little stuff really does matter.