12 And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. 13 For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. 14 And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear.
20 For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. 21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. 23 I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24 But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.
25 Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith.
Whether or not you believe in the divinity of Jesus, surely you can appreciate the tremendous power that Paul’s faith gave to him. What the heck can the authorities do to someone, who relishes the opportunity to share the gospel with prison guards, and who views his continued life as a necessary chore before spending eternity with Christ in paradise? You can threaten to torture the guy, but that’s about it; and if in his opposition to you he’s been as harmless as a dove, that could be a public relations disaster.
I imagine some cynics will say in the comments, “Right, just like being promised 72 virgins can get people to do all sorts of ‘brave’ things. Give me a break.” But if you are tempted to say that, I respond: Exactly. Good extension of my point. I don’t know much about Islam, but if there really are young men who truly believe that with all of their hearts, then heck yeah they will be virtually unstoppable. From my extensive studies via Hollywood films and the TV show 24, it is my understanding that the Secret Service says it’s really hard to stop somebody who is willing to die.
In this post I’m not offering an independent argument for the existence of God. Rather, I’m commenting on (a) how courageous some religious people are, though not in a conventional sense, and (b) why religious faith is so hard to stamp out, even when dictatorial means are used such as in the former Soviet Union.