If worse came to worst, what would be our “heart of heart” answer to “Would you allow yourself to be put to death in order to be faithful to Jesus Christ?” The question is valid, although we hope such a scenario never plays out in our lives. Let’s think beyond what our first instinctive answer might be.
The fact is that a vow to die for Christ, if such became necessary, expresses our sentiments / commitments at the moment of saying it. We will only know if that sentiment is on-going when the time for dying for Jesus actually presents itself. This is illustrated with the following summary; perhaps you have heard of it. (But, I want to go beyond what you maybe have thought.)
Years ago, some Christians had to face a barbaric choice. They would be placed on ice floating in sub-freezing temperatures with no more than the clothes they were wearing at the time unless they recanted their faith in and loyalty to Jesus. On the ice, there would be no food. They would die of either starvation or by freezing to death.
Various Christians vowed to not deny their loyalty to Jesus, and were forcibly place on the floating ice to wait out their impending death. Their tormentors, close enough to see if anyone raised a recant flag, waited out the developing scenario. They were ready to “rescue” the one who broke the vow. At a certain point, one of the men who had said he was willing to die for Christ, recanted, and left the ice assisted by the infidels.
The point of relating this episode is this: When the “rescued” man first went onto the ice, he was committed to dying for Christ; he was sure he would die for Jesus if necessary. But, he eventually denied Jesus. The fellow’s plight and personal “solution” forces us to recognize that we dare not pin too much on the making of a vow. A vow made before both God and people only measures our righteousness and intentions at the time the vow is made. Within a day or a little longer, we may not be so righteous. Our fragility, always present, can rise to the surface.
At that point, we are back to one of the dominant elements in the Christian life – joyful life in God is not found in not sinning (as desirable as that may be), but in being forgiven. And, each time we ask forgiveness, we have the opportunity to lose pride in self and be even more grateful to the One who died for us on the Cross of ice.