Audrey Assad has recently released a new single, and boy, it is powerful. When I listened to it for the first time, I just sat in stunned silence, in utter awe of the beauty. “Even Unto Death” is inspired by modern martyrs, especially the 21 men killed by ISIS in a video released this year. Since Audrey can explain her own song better than I can, I’d like to first show you her own story.
This song is much more than an anthem of the martyr’s triumph. It’s much more than a prayer for courage or hope or for even life after death. It is a love song. The melody and lyrics depict the soaring of the soul to the Lord not as dead and gone but as the beloved returning to the Lover. It made me reflect on what it really means to be a Christian martyr.
Usually when people think of martyrdom, they think of death for a belief system, for faith. While this is certainly an aspect of martyrdom, it’s not the deepest motive of a Christian martyr. Consider that many of our martyred saints could have outwardly renounced their faith while still “mentally assenting” to all the truths of the faith. Instead, they decided to witness to the faith out of love for Christ. They died because they would rather lose their lives than pretend they never knew the One who died for them.
Love is not only the motivation for, but the essential element of true, Christian martyrdom. Peter Kreeft in his book The God Who Loves You reminds us of Paul’s discourse on love in 1 Corinthians: “If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:3) In his commentary on this verse, Kreeft says: “Even the works of love are no substitute for love itself…You can be a martyr without love: an angry, hateful martyr. A terrorist suicide bomber is not an apostle of love.” A Christian martyr has his true merit in the depth of the love that would and did consummate in the gift of the whole self, body and soul.
Audrey Assad’s song has brought out the heart of martyr’s prayer and his powerful witness to love. With awesome passion and reverence for those martyrs, she has crafted a song that reflects real love, love that suffers but still sings. I’ve used this song to meditate and pray, hoping that I might be granted the grace to love like a martyr. I whole-heartedly recommend it to anyone looking for substantial music for prayer or contemplation.