At least one player on the Canadian Olympic ice hockey team of 2002 received a gold medal for sitting on the bench the entire game. He never played. He sat and watched the entire game. Furthermore, not one of his teammates was heard objecting to the benchwarmer getting a medal.
In Matthew 20 Jesus tells a parable about a man who paid the same wages to all those who worked in his fields. Some worked all day and some worked only an hour, but they all received identical amounts of money. Unlike the Canadian hockey players, some of those who worked all day did object claiming the employer was unfair. The employer silenced them by pointing out they got what they contracted for and since the money was his he could do with it as he pleased.
This is a wonderful story. Knowing this story keeps us from feeling bad in heaven when we meet one of the martyrs. Knowing that salvation was a gift even to those who gave their bodies to be burned or mutilated will be comforting. How else could we, as benchwarmers, think of receiving the same reward as the martyrs if we thought we had to earn heaven? Paul tells us in Romans 3:23 that we all have sinned and have come short of the glory of God. However, he continues in Romans 6:23 by telling us that eternal life is a gift—a gift for everyone. That even includes the martyrs.
Written April 23, 2003