James, Son of Zebedee

The fourth chapter of Matthew records the calling of two brothers--James and John.  They were fishermen, working with their father when Jesus came into their lives.  Together with Peter, these three men were Jesus trusted inner circle.  And tradition tells us that eventually, James, like all the other Apostles other than his brother was killed at the hands of persecutors of the Christian faith.  

There is some dispute about the year, but only a few years after Jesus ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father and intercede for us, James was turned over the authorities.  Acts 12:1-3 indicates that James' execution order was made by King Agrippa.  He was killed by the sword.

John Foxe tells us that something unusual seems to have happened at James' execution.  If Foxe is correct, something was stirring in the heart of the man that turned over James.  Foxe, claiming to quote Clement, writes,
When this James was brought to the tribunal seat, he that brought him and was the cause of his trouble, seeing him to be condemned and that he should suffer death, was in such sort moved within heart and conscience that, as he went to the execution, he confessed himself also, of his own accord, to be a Christian.  And so they were led forth together, where in the way he desired of James to forgive him what he had done.  After James had a little paused with himself upon the matter, turning to him he said, 'Peace be to thee brother'; and kissed him.  And both were beheaded together" (Foxe 2005, 13).
This is a remarkable event.  The very man--who remains completely nameless in this account--brought James before the authorities.  It is possible that the man was previously a Christian and had taken some issue with James; but more than likely, he was not previously a Christian.  But upon seeing James' conviction, the accuser became a believer in Christ and then openly confessed that he was a Christian.  Following his confession, he asks for James' forgiveness.  At that moment, this man's confession was also the very thing to condemn him to death!

John not only forgave the man, but he called him brother and they entered heaven together.

This story should serve as a valuable illustration of the importance of loving those that hate us.  It should also remind us take a solid, strong stand in our faith, because this very action is one way we can share the gospel without words.  It's how we live the witness of Christ. 

Foxe, John. Foxe's Christian Martyrs. Uhrichsville, Ohio: Barbour Pub, 2005.