Perhaps I can illustrate this from a story taken from the late history of the Russian Church. I think it shows what I am trying to say about being a Christian. In the years of the Civil War [the Russian Civil War lasted from 1918-1923] when the opposing armies were contending for power, conquering and losing ground in the course of three years, a small town fell into the hands of the Red army which had been held by the remnants of the Imperial troops. A woman found herself there with her two small children, four and five years of age, in danger of death because her husband belonged to the opposite camp. She hid in an abandoned house hoping that the time would come when she would be able to escape. One evening a young woman, Natalie, of her own age, in the early twenties, knocked at the door and asked her whether she was so-and-so. When the mother said she was, the young woman warned her that she had been discovered and would be fetched that very night in order to be shot. The young woman added, ‘You must escape at once.’ The mother looked at the children and said, ‘How could I?’ The young woman, who thus far had been nothing but a physical neighbor, became at that moment the neighbor of the Gospel. She said, ‘You can, because I will stay behind and call myself by your name when they come to fetch you.’ ‘But you will be shot,’ said the mother. ‘Yes, but I have no children.’ And she stayed behind.
We can imagine what happened then. We can see the night coming, wrapping in darkness, in gloom, in cold and damp, this cottage. We can see there a woman who was waiting for her death to come and we can remember the Garden of Gethsemane. We can imagine Natalie asking that this cup should pass her by and being met like Christ by divine silence. We can imagine her turning in intention towards those who might have supported her, but who were out of reach. The disciples of Christ slept; and she could turn to no one without betraying. We can imagine that more than once she prayed that at least her sacrifice should not be in vain.
Natalie probably asked herself more than once what would happen to the mother and the children when she was dead, and there was no reply except the word of Christ, ‘No one has greater love than he who lays down his life for his friend.‘ Probably she thought more than once that in one minute she could be secure! It was enough to open the door and the moment she was in the street she no longer was that woman, she became herself again. It was enough to deny her false, her shared identity. But she died, shot. The mother and the children escaped. (Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, BEGINNING TO PRAY, pp 20-21)