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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sacrifice


"I'm wondering," I said to Steve and Dawn, "do you see living and serving in Ethiopia as a sacrifice?"

It was at the end of our 10 day stay in Ethiopia. Steve and Dawn have lived in Ethiopia for 18 years, Steve teaching theology and training leaders, Dawn working for Bingham Academy to recruit staff to teach the 1-12 grade students. We hadn't had a shower for 3 days because there wasn't water in the city. They were going into rolling blackouts where there wouldn't be power for at least 3 days per week (but you didn't know which three days). Dawn had been sick for at least a month with an unknown illness that was causing severe abdominal pain. Their oldest son Jack was recovering from a ruptured appendix - no small thing in a country where major medical issues are dealt with outside of the country because of the level of health care.

Yet, I had met many SIM missionaries and most of them had been there a long time - 15 to 25 years. I met a couple of newer ones too. They had only been there a couple of years but were thriving in the midst of the challenges.

In talking with Steve and Dawn about my question, they confirmed my sneaking suspicion - the idea of living a sacrificial life was not what they dwelt upon. Because it wasn't a life of sacrifice, it was just life. It was the life that they were convinced God had called them to, equipped them for and confirmed them in. No doubt there is an awareness that living in Ethiopia means they don't have some things that other people have (like internet access faster than the occasional dial-up they get when the phones work).

I think we get a feeling that we are sacrificing when we try to compare our life with the life of those around us. And, the amazing thing is, we always compare ourselves to those we consider better off than we are. And then we think - "Oh! What a sacrifice this life of living for Jesus is!"

God's words from the Bible come to mind in this. Take a moment to read Romans 12:1-2. Everyone is called to live a life of sacrifice, if we are a follower of Christ. But we aren't supposed to sacrifice things. We are supposed to sacrifice ourself. It goes back to the Old Testament (and New Testament era) understanding of what worship involved. Judaism and other religions of the day used the sacrfice of animals in their worship ceremonies. The animals were dead. You and I, we are alive and that is what we are called to be - living sacrifices. We give of ourselves, voluntarily, laying ourselves on the altar of God to used in any way He chooses.

For some, that is an absolutely appalling, frightening thing. And it is that way because we don't very well trust God to do anything with us that would be much to our benefit or pleasure. But laying our lives on the altar of God to be used any way God sees fit is the pathway to the "good and acceptable and perfect" will of God. It seems to me that would be a pretty good place to be. I am all for good, acceptable and perfect! Those three words are also a pretty good beginning description of the character of God - a God you can trust.

Last Sunday I received an e-mail from Steve telling me they had finally diagnosed what was afflicting his wife. She has an ameoba living in her. They are very difficult to detect and very difficult to kill. Pray for Dawn to be healed quickly. She has a lot of things to do to live out that good, acceptable and perfect life that she gets the privilege of living in Ethiopia.

Living for God is not a sacrifice, it is a privilege. But it isn't necessarily challenge free.

3 comments:

ET said...

This puts a fresh light on 1 Peter 4:8-10...

"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms."

Jerry said...

DC -

Again you seem to have my life on some weird CC camera. The guys in our Life Group are currently reading "In His Steps" and we are discussing this "How much do we need to give, offer, sacrifice to follow in our Lord's footsteps?" It has made for some interesting conversation. Glad to have you back.

Jerry

livingloved said...

:)