The Faith of the Redshirts – In Honor of the Martyrs at Home and Abroad

Redshirts.

If you know that reference immediately, welcome, friend. We can hang out and understand one another on a deep level. Some of you have no idea. That’s okay, too. I’ll explain.

In the world of Star Trek, sometimes the ship’s captain and his first officers must leave the starship Enterprise and transport to an alien world, so they form an “away team,” as in “away from the ship.” Key to every away team, as every Star Trek fan knows, is one or two previously unknown actors playing low ranking officers uniformed in redshirts. These crew members are expendable and serve one purpose.

They die.

Every time.

All faithful Star Trek fans understand this and anticipate it. Redshirt joins an away team. Away team arrives on planet. Redshirt dies. If there are two redshirts, one dies quickly. For the other one, death is delayed but still inevitable.

Why, you ask, is this plot device so integral to the storyline? The answer to that is twofold.

First, the deaths of the expendables illustrate the danger confronting the main characters. Second, the deaths of the expendables expose the extent of the enemy’s evil. In fact, the deaths of the expendables are particularly crucial when the enemy is beautiful, apparently peaceful, and surrounded by light. Recognizing evil can be tricky, but the deaths of the expendables expediently sort the good guys from the bad.

I was reminded of redshirts as I read the book of Acts and encountered, again, the account of Stephen’s martyrdom.

Stephen was a good man. A faithful follower of Christ. The religious leaders of his day tried to argue with him about his faith, but they couldn’t withstand his wisdom or the power of the Spirit within him. You may assume that if Stephen was faithful to Christ, speaking wisdom, and full of the Spirit, then his words should have prevailed and his opponents should have been changed.

That’s not what happened. Instead, God dressed Stephen in a redshirt.

The religious leaders spread lies about him. They stirred up everyone against him. When it came time to defend himself, Stephen chose, instead, to speak to them once more about why they should turn from their evil ways and follow Jesus. He refused to protect himself for the sake of those who persecuted him. He entrusted his protection to God.

It’s beautiful that God opened the doors of heaven to fill Stephen’s sight as the others stoned him to death. Jesus was there for Stephen in that moment, but it ended in blood and death. His death was heinous and unjust. But it served to illustrate the depths of evil in the hearts of men and the blood-hunger of the evil one who defies God and seeks to destroy those who follow Him.

The death of a redshirt expediently sorts out the followers of evil from the followers of the True Light.

The difference between redshirts on Star Trek and the redshirts of our faith is that the characters on Star Trek are expendable and unwitting victims. Those of us who follow Jesus know our lives are sealed up with Him and when Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Colossians 3:4). We willingly lay down our lives for the love of Jesus Christ and for the advancement of His kingdom until He returns.

Jesus is not like the captains of the starship Enterprise who always survived (in accordance with their well-negotiated contracts). Quite the opposite, in fact. In accordance with His obedience to the Father and His love for us, Jesus came below decks, donned a redshirt, and laid down His life willingly so that all of us expendables could have everlasting life.

Him.

That’s why we accept the redshirt as part of our uniform. Jesus led the way and we follow. On this side of glory, success doesn’t always look like success. Stephen’s story is a success story. Many, many stories that look like failures on this side of glory will be featured attractions on the wall of success in heaven. Some of them are listed in Hebrews 11:32-40.

In Star Trek, the redshirts are unknowns. In the Kingdom of God, the name of every redshirt is written on the hand of God, known well to Him who holds the power over life and death. Being a redshirt takes faith, but Stephen will testify that faith is not misplaced if it’s in Jesus Christ.

What color is your shirt? In the end, the redshirts win.

**This post is an excerpt from my book, Running from a Crazy Man (and other adventures traveling with Jesus). It’s been on my mind this week since the shootings at Umpqua Community College in Rosedale, OR, and the news out of Syria about twelve Christians brutally martyred this past summer.

We in the West must became the students of those currently enduring this intense persecution. They risk everything for the sake of Christ. They have learned to love with their very lives. Can we love them with our prayers, by telling their stories, and by living each day for the gift that it is? Can we learn from their deaths that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life?

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1 Comment

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  1. Never thought of myself as a Redshirt before, but of course you’re correct. My Savior wore one and by donning the same I partake in His suffering and therefore His comfort. Amen

    Thank you.