Encouragement From The Word

Sacrifice

As Remembrance Day approaches, the word “sacrifice” looms large.  We remember, with gratitude, those who gave their lives in the service of our country’s freedom and sovereignty.

But sacrifice is not limited to those who die in battle.

Yes, often, we think of Jesus’ words to his disciples – a veiled reference to himself – when he said, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15.13, NLT). 

But the notion of sacrifice also relates to our own walk with God.  The apostle Paul wrote to the Roman church, “I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you.  Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind he will find acceptable.  This is truly the way to worship him” (Romans 12.1, NLT).

He calls us to give – once for all, as a victim – our bodies, which contextually refers to our whole selves – as a living sacrifice.

As disciples of Jesus, our worship involves the complete giving of every part of us to God, in his service, for his Kingdom, for his glory.

So, yes, gratefully remember those who sacrificed their lives for Canada’s freedom.  And gratefully sacrifice your body, your mind, your soul, for the glory of God, who in Jesus Christ has redeemed you for his good purpose.

Encouragement From The Word

No Greater Love

This Sunday marks the 100thanniversary since the declaration of the armistice, ending poppythe First World War.  It was deemed “the war to end all wars”, yet it certainly did not turn out to be so.  Along with one other significant global conflict, there have been regional, local, and various civil wars that have taken place around the world since that celebratory day in Compiègne, France, on November 11, 1918.

Remembrance Day, as we call it in Canada, is one of those days in the year where church and state comingle in an interesting yet often awkward way.  As Canada has grown more pluralistic, the presence of Christian clergy has been augmented by the presence of other religious leaders, and has often been diminished by restrictions placed on how pastors can speak at some Remembrance Day ceremonies.

The Scripture most often cited around Remembrance Day comes from Jesus’ words to his disciples in John 15.13:  “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (NLT).  Unfortunately, when it’s not given context, one can conclude that this was a passage about the valiance of war.  And while it is true that the valiant sacrifices made by those who laid down their lives in the cause of world peace and democracy are significant and not to be forgotten, this was not the context in which Jesus said those words.

Jesus was not talking about brave soldiers.  He was talking about himself.

John 15.13 isn’t about a war between nations; it’s about a war between humanity and God.

Sin separates us from God, and puts us at war with our Creator.  But Jesus came to pay the price for our sin, and make us right with God once again.  Indeed, as the Apostle Paul said, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations” (Ephesians 2.14-15a, NIV).

There will always be wars on earth, until Jesus comes again, or until the whole world knows his peace.  So let’s all commit to sharing Jesus’ peace with others, humbly and winsomely, so that war will be a thing of the past – between people and people, yes, and between people and God.

Let Remembrance Day be a reminder of our need for peace of all sorts, especially “God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand” (Philippians 4.7a, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

Remember, and work for peace

Next week, Canadians will pause for a few moments to remember the sacrifices made in the wars in which our nation has fought for the cause of freedom. The wearing of a poppy, as a symbol of remembrance, has become a cultural norm for us; the challenge comes in keeping that cultural norm from becoming just another rote tradition.

While we remember, we do not glorify war. In fact, our act of remembrance should be a clarion call to peace – not peace at any price, but true peace, the shalom that only God can give us in this world.

Carl P. Daw, Jr., a contemporary American hymn writer, has penned these words which can serve as a prayer for us as we approach Remembrance Day, working for peace.

O day of peace that dimly shines

through all our hopes and prayers and dreams,

guide us to justice, truth, and love,

delivered from our selfish schemes.

May the swords of hate fall from our hands,

our hearts from envy find release,

till by God’s grace our warring world

shall see Christ’s promised reign of peace.

 

Then shall the wolf dwell with the lamb,

nor shall the fierce devour the small;

as beasts and cattle calmly graze,

a little child shall lead them all.

Then enemies shall learn to love,

all creatures find their true accord;

the hope of peace shall be fulfilled,

for all the earth shall know the Lord.

Let it be so.

In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together;

    the leopard will lie down with the baby goat.

The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion,

    and a little child will lead them all. – Isaiah 11.6, NLT