What Is A Martyr’s Complex?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

What is a martyr’s complex and how do we avoid getting it?


What is a martyr? The simplest answer is a martyr is a witness, and you are if you are a witness for Christ. Not every martyr dies by fire. In Greek, the word “martur” means “witness,” so if you are a witness for Christ, you are a martyr, but you can be a martyr and live…live for Christ. Jesus said we must be His witnesses to the ends of the earth. For us, it may be going to the end of the block, or to our co-workers, or our family members. Stephen was a deacon in the early church, and he is thought to be the first martyr, but there were hundreds more to follow in the first century, and why were they being murdered? Because they were witnesses for Christ, and remember, a martyr is a witness…and we should expect it will bring persecution. The gospel polarizes…either the truth sets them free, or it makes them angry. That’s an important fact to remember when sharing Christ. To some, “we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Cor 2:15), [we are] “a fragrance from death to death [but] to the other a fragrance from life to life” (2 Cor 2:16). To some, we are a “fragrance from life to life,” meaning there is a physical birth, but God also offers eternal life through Christ so that we might be born again, so it is a physical life to an eternal one, but to others, the good news is “a fragrance from death (their physical death) to death” (their eternal judgment). Needless to say, it is never our responsibility to save anyone…it is their response to His ability, but it is our responsibility to witness.

The “religous” were Jesus’ worst persecutors.


The Apostle Paul endured terrible persecution, mostly from the “religious” group, the Jews, and the young pastor (Timothy) he was mentoring was probably experiencing the same thing, although not to the extent that Paul suffered. Paul told Timothy, you knew about “my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me” (2 Tim 3:11), so “get used to it” Timothy. You and I will be treated in a similar fashion. The Apostle Paul said that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12). The Apostle Peter echo’s that thought, saying that we should “not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Pet 4:12). We cannot take it personally, but rather, we are to “rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Pet 4:13). The surprising thing would be that if a believer never suffers persecution, because “all who live a godly will in Christ will be persecuted.” When you are persecuted, and not if, Jesus said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt 5:10-12), and “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Pet 4:12). Not that you ask for it, having a martyr’s complex, but don’t you want “the Spirit of glory and of God [resting] upon you?” I must say yes to that.

Asking for It

“Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies…”

It’s one thing to be a witness for Christ, but it’s an entirely different thing to cram the gospel down someone’s throat. Jesus never pushed the gospel on anyone, and He never forced anyone to believe. As far as I know, nobody’s ever been argued or debated into heaven. In fact, Jesus said that it will be by our love for one another that people will know we are His disciples (John 13:34-35). I have yet to hear of anyone that’s been convinced by human persuasion and admitted they were wrong and then got saved because of it. God does not work in the human heart that way. I’ve read a lot of comments between believers and non-believers, and these “discussions” can get very nasty. When it begins to deteriorate to the point of name-calling, that’s when the discussion becomes useless. In fact, it can do more harm than good. Paul told Timothy to “Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers” (2 Tim 2:14), so we are to “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels” (2 Tim 2:23). Paul told Titus to “avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless” (Titus 3:9). Can’t we see that debating about things regarding faith are useless, and only serve to make unbelievers harden their hearts, and that’s the last thing we want.


Jesus said, “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours” (John 15:20), so we cannot take persecution personally. But neither can we persecute non-believers, and sadly, I’ve seen a few believers try to persecute those who don’t believe, because they haven’t trusted in Christ, but that’s wrong. It is God Who draws people to Christ (John 6:44), and Christ alone saves (Acts 4:12). God opens hearts, just as He did with Lydia (Acts 16:14). We can’t even save ourselves…we must be called to Christ by God (John 6:44), because dead people can’t make decisions for Christ (Eph 2:1-6). Of course, God will use us as a means to save some, but clearly, He does the saving (Prov 21:1). The lost cannot even see their need for Christ without God’s Spirit, so it’s like trying to blame a blind man for running into things. They can’t see. Remember, we too were once blind, but made to see; we were once lost, but now are found (Luke 15:32).

Here is some related reading for you: What Does the Bible Say About Martyrs?

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

How to turn your sermon into clips

Share the truth

Previous post:

Next post: