Fine line divides types of martyrs

There is a fine line that divides things that seem alike.

A line, however thin, is still a line. It exists to define and make clear truths that would otherwise be missed.

Usually, we know the line is there; and, usually, we understand what it defines. But sometimes we are fooled by the similarity of things and fail to discern the line that separates them.

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the devastating terrorist attack against our country on Sept. 11, 2001. Though 10 years have passed, the pain of that attack is still strong and, for some, closure will never come.

Just a few weeks ago, the remains of a person who died in the fall of the towers were finally identified. For that family, the pain of 10 years of not knowing has ended and the acceptance of loss has begun.

As we remember the great loss of life and the magnitude of suffering that occurred that day, do we see the line that divides and defines the martyrs in the story?

Are we confused as to whether or not their sacrifices were honorable?

On the one hand, we have the Muslim martyrs who gave up their lives to see their mission accomplished. We believe their mission had nothing to do with God, and we label it terrorism; but, do we really know?

Can anyone know what is in another person’s heart?

On the other hand, we have stories of selfless acts among those who were attacked. Office workers who stayed to help an injured coworker rather than take their opportunity to escape. Rescue workers who risked being crushed by falling debris in order to save a child or a businessman or another volunteer. People who stayed, gave up their chance at life, in order to comfort or aid someone else.

The men and women on United Airlines Flight 93 gave up their lives, became martyrs, in order to abort the attack on our nation’s capitol. We believe the actions of such people had everything to do with God and we label it heroism; but, do we really know? Can anyone know what is in another person’s heart?

Two kinds of martyrs. Both giving up their own lives for a purpose larger than themselves. Can we know what divides them?

Jesus said we could know. Twice in Matthew 7 he said plainly, “By their fruit, you shall know them.” (Matthew 7:15-19)

The apostle John said we could know. (John 3:19-24)

“This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

“Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him.

“And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.

“The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.”

Ten years ago, terrorists became martyrs for a cause born of hate. In the process of becoming martyrs, they murdered many innocent people, not sinless people, but people innocent of the cause of their hatred.

They set in motion a chain of events that illuminated in bright, shining, light the other type of martyr, the martyr with a cause born of love, those who lay down their lives to save others.

The fine line has existed since the beginning and marks the only choice we really have — lay down your life for hate, or lay it down for love.

Either way, we die to self, but only the way of love will save us.

Lora Chandler is the secretary and bookkeeper for the Third and Kilgore Church of Christ in Portales. Contact her at:

lorachandler@gmail.com