My daughter just asked me: Why would St. Stephen let himself be martyred? Why indeed. I told her it was because he believed so much in what he was preaching. He believed in and loved Jesus. She wanted to know why he didn't just run away - hide behind a tree. He was following Jesus' example, I told her.
She didn't buy it. I don't blame her. It's not an easy thing to understand. I don't completely understand it either.
When I was younger and reading about victims of the Holocaust, I wondered why they didn't just say they were Christian. Deny being Jewish - save themselves. Now, as I get older, I understand more what it means to really believe something. I also understand that in that regime it would have been futile to lie.
If Christians were persecuted in the U.S. like they are in some parts of the world, how would I react? Would I take the easy way out - run and hide - deny what I believe? Or would I stand and die for something that intellectually I know is worth dying for?
I don't know the answer. I like to think I'd be noble and saint-like. Hopefully I won't ever be tested. But it is a good thing to consider. Why did the martyr's let it happen?