I remember crying in the movie theatre as a kid when I watched the timeless Disney animation movie the 'Lion King'. When Lion King came back to the theatres in 3D version the weekend before the last, I most eagerly watched it again. This time, I didn't cry. I just had a clogged nose. During some parts of the movie, I had to breathe though my mouth, least the kids and families be disturbed by sniffling of a 210 pound almost (then) 29 year old bloke.
Even though my emotions hadn't quite changed since I was a kid, my perception of the overall narrative had changed quite a bit. This time I could appreciate the Christian analogy in the movie. A young kid in a 'happy garden' is tempted by the evil one with access to 'special knowledge'. How could that not ring a bell?
Following the advice of the evil one, the kid messes up and then runs away in fear. Wanting to forget the guilt of the 'death causing' disobedience, Simba decides to FORGE his original identity and indulge in the petty distractions of life of comfortable complacency - quite like the 'fallen man' who'll indulge in everything from work to sports to movies to sex to anti-depressants to quell the feeling deep within, that he has messed up his life.
Simba grows up making his new world of petty indulgences as his ULTIMATE world. One day, Simba meets his childhood sweetheart who asks him to return to his 'real home'. Simba shows her his ULTIMATE life of affluence and sees no reason give it up to go back and risk facing his evil Uncle Scar.
Through an unexpected series of events, Simba makes U turn and returns back to his 'real home'. The point of inflexion is a vision he has of his dead Father's spirit.
Father: "Simba, you have forgotten me."
Simba: "No. I have not."
Father: "Yes. You have."
Father: "You have forgotten who you are. So you have forgotten me. Simba! REMEMBER who you are!!!"
As a kid, I kind of took this vision for granted. But now, having gone through my 'quarter life crisis', I see something interesting about this U turn.
When Simba REMEMBERS his Father, he REMEMBERS who he really IS. Then he realizes that the pleasure mongering, affluent world he lives in is NOT ultimate anymore. His ULTIMATE world is his 'real home' and he'll fight to get it back from his evil Uncle, even if he'll have to risk getting killed. He turns from timid philistinism with an other-worldly courage. This reminded me of Christian martyrs.
Being a kid who grew hearing stories about Christian missionaries, the phenomenon of Christian martyrdom has always fascinated me. Why would someone with sane mind willingly give up the pleasures of life to die an ignoble death. Martyrdom is a topic that makes people, especially affluent Christians, uncomfortable. Improvising D.L.Moody into this context would render his famous quote as... "A Christian martyr, who loses his life, loses something he cannot keep to gain something he cannot lose". Christian martyrs are people who like Simba have had the U-turn and realize that this world they live in is NOT the ULTIMATE world and that they are meant to fight for something bigger.
Christianity spread like wildfire during the first century Roman Empire because Christians then REALLY believed that this world is NOT the ULTIMATE one. Perhaps the idea of this world not being ULTIMATE sounds too revolutionary to the Modern Christians living in the world pervaded by ideals of materialism - with the iconic Steven Jobs saying in his Harvard address, "this is too short a life for you to be living someone else’s life", and at the other end, an infamous online adultery site running ads in mainstream media saying, "life is short, just have an affair". The few times I attempted discussing martyrdom in Bible Study groups, it mostly seemed to make people uncomfortable. In one instance, I was asked to stop. May be I was pressing too hard…
On the other hand, I recently read that the 20th century has had more Christian Martyrs than any other century. Perhaps that is because population increase has been exponential in the 20th century. But still it begs the question, why is there an appearance of two groups of Christians? One group is philistine and material, the other is brave and other-worldly. Could that be the difference between ‘the wheat and the tares’ (Matt 13:24-30)? Maybe not... Perhaps to use one’s idea of martyrdom as a dividing line between wheat and tares is too simplistic... Or maybe I am over analyzing this...
Anyways, here is the bottom-line... What really makes a Christian is that, a Christian, like Simba, REMEMBERS who his Father is. The philosopher King says in the Proverbs... 'REMEMBER your Creator in the days of your youth' (Eccl 12:1). Such a Christian knows which world is ULTIMATE - this one or the next one? The answer to this question becomes the basis for his 'world view' that determines EVERY other part of his life. A Christian of this sort would then be unafraid to 'run against a troop or leap over wall' (Ps 18:29).
Looking back, I think it is ok to be squeamish about meditating martyrdom in our Bible studies. But we cannot afford to or not REMEMBER our Creator EVERY moment of our lives. If we don't REMEMBER who our Creator is, we forget who we are! It MATTERS whether we look at the world through the 'lens' of us being Sons of a Heavenly Father who has built our true homes in the Heavenly realms (John 14:3), or whether we, like the modern materialistic pagans, live as though this world is ALL there is.