Last week, I wrote about the story going on in Kentucky with Kim Davis, the county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses in spite of a Supreme Court order that she had to. I wrote that I didn't see a good ending coming from that situation, that no matter what happened, I assumed everyone would leave the battle field bloody.
Well a lot has happened since then. Kim Davis was thrown in jail for contempt of court. She would be allowed out if she would agree to the court's compromise (remember that word?) allowing her deputies to sign the marriage licenses so that she didn't have to. She refused, which as an aside, in my mind kind of threw out the argument that she just didn't want her names on the documents. Mrs. Davis spent the weekend in jail, and then was released a few days ago.
Yes, that is "Eye of the Tiger" playing in the background.
The political/law side of me is a little confused as to the conditions of her release. Anyone who thinks the judge was just feeling the pressure of the protesters is nuts. Judges face more pressure from more people than any of us could imagine, but their job is to hold fast to the law. I would be willing to bet that for all the fanfare and talk of standing strong, Mrs. Davis took some sort of deal from the court. Or maybe I'm missing it altogether, and it was just a compassion/pressure thing.
There are many out there on both sides of the issue who want to apply the label Martyr to Mrs. Davis, both in a positive and negative way. To her supporters, Mrs. Davis stood up to the establishment even at great personal cost to fight for what she believed in. To her opposition, Mrs. Davis played the Martyr, trying to be the one to fall on the sword to gain attention for an issue.
What's interesting is that I was reminded yesterday of the actual meaning of the word martyr. We tend to think of a martyr as someone who would die for their faith, or in our modern American culture at least someone who is persecuted for their faith. And indeed, there are many of these types of martyrs around the world. I've met them. I've met their families. They are heroes the likes of which I will never be but will always aspire to.
But in reality, a martyr is much more than that. We get our word martyr from the Greek word martur, which means to witness. To be a martyr is to be a witness to what God is doing in the world. To be a martyr is to see what Christ is up to and to proclaim it throughout the world. And yes of course, sometimes that means laying down one's life to proclaim the goodness of Christ in a world dark enough to take someone's life. But in reality, whether we are aware of it or not, you and I are martyrs all the time. We are witnessing to God, whether we mean to or not. We are, more frequently than not, accidental martyrs.
So my question to Mrs. Davis would be the same question I would pose to each and every one of us this morning: what are we witnessing to? What kind of God do we proclaim both with our words and with our actions? Do we proclaim a God who would be willing to celebrate with "Eye of the Tiger" and crowds and cheering in this situation, or do we proclaim a God who is disappointed that those who believe still squabble this much? Do we proclaim a God of love and mercy or do we proclaim a God who has the capacity to hate others? Do we proclaim a God of prosperity and wealth and everybody for themselves or do we proclaim the humble carpenter's son who said "do not worry about your life?"
The truth is, you and I are proclaiming God at every turn, whether we recognize it or not. I'm sure there are those who disagree with me, but I think we ought to pay closer attention to bearing witness to the God of grace. I think we ought to bear witness to the God who reminded us that even if we speak the truth, if we don't do so with love we are a noisy gong or clanging cymbal, a broken toy in the symphony of mercy.
Come, Lord Jesus.