On Death, Martyrdom, and the Moral Obligation to Care

Whether it’s the death of a missionary on the mission field, or an assault of a child, youth, or other person in the local church or on the mission field,  we as leaders have a moral obligation (not to mention a legal duty of care concern) to ensure that incident never takes place again under our watch.

To try to somehow justify what happened as “God’s will” in order to absolve our personal and perhaps legal responsibility is tantamount to spiritualizing negligence.  Do not be deceived, we will be held to account before God (and perhaps a court of law…) for our conduct and actions.

To simply call the death of a Gospel worker on the mission field martyrdom and avoid the due diligence and much painful work of understanding what could have done differently to preserve that person’s life, is not just poor stewardship of a life lost; it is to squander what that which the departed worked so hard to live for, love for, and die for.

God, in His Word, makes it clear what it means to be “slain for the word of God and the witness they had born” (Revelation 6:9). When we spiritualize a terrible situation in order to justify our negligence and call someone a martyr, not only do we fail those who have died under our care, but we also cheapen the deaths of those saints who truly gave all for the sake of the Gospel, having earned a white robe given to them by Jesus Himself as a result of their faithfulness onto death.

Likewise, to justify the abuse of children on the mission field as “a part of God‘s sovereign will,” is tantamount to chiseling our own millstone to be hung around our neck as God drops us into the sea. Indeed, God will not be mocked and His warning to protect those who are most vulnerable in our ministries is just as real and relevant today as when Jesus warned us in Luke 17:2.

Make no mistake: it is a sinful response on the part of leaders, who consider themselves godly, to poorly steward the precious lives of God’s people, young or old. And it is a sinfulness to which we will be held to full account before the throne of God.

-Scott Brawner

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