“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Romans 12:1-2
History is filled with the stories of those we call the “heroes of the faith.” Hebrews chapter eleven gives a chronicle of many named and unnamed heroes and heroines. The stories of G.A. Henty are also filled with stories about the adventures of heroes and heroines. Stories that captivate us all because we have a natural inclination to admire those who live, pursue, and sacrifice for righteousness. The story of Beric the Briton, is one such story.
This is the story of a young Briton, who was thrust into a crisis he did not choose. God’s providence had so ordered his life that he was to learn what it meant to be a “living sacrifice.” His story is no fairy tale. It is life. Hard times, difficult choices, defeats and victories, and the inescapable changes that occur in a man during these times of sacrifice and difficulty.
Sacrifice and service are words that seem growing most foreign to the modern Americans given over to a relativistic mind of instant gratification. The “pleasure principle” has supplanted the principle of delayed gratification. Yet sacrifice and service are at the very heart of what Paul calls Christian to do and be, as a normal part of their (reasonable) service to God.
This kind of reasonable service is reflected in a letter I came across recently. A brief letter, written from an aging father to his 43 year-old son on the occasion of his son’s birthday. Here’s what he wrote:
Happy birthday! I rejoice that God has given us both many years of life and the manifold blessings of grace. Our wives, families, work, and His manifold providences have all been instruments and means of grace for us to grow in our repentance. And you have.
I am proud to be your father and grateful to have you as my son. You have brought honor to our family by your steadfast and growing faithfulness to His kingdom, His law, and His people. Your testimony of faith is one I can point others to and say to them, follow my son as he follows Christ.
Please know that I do not write these things simply to be kind, but in all sincerity. I write to express my love and respect for you. I write to encourage you because the days to come, the days beyond my lifetime and into your grand children’s lifetime may be dark. Strong godly men and women, who lead their families, lead in their vocations, lead in this culture, will be needed more than every. Folks who take Psalm 1 and 119 seriously and know how to apply the Law of God, and the Christian mind, in every area of life and thought. Folks who will stand in the face of adversity, persecution, and cowardness, and who will stand for truth even when the pulpit does not.
I believe you are one of those folks. I am honored, as a father, to say to other men, I have such a son as this.
Repentance is the hallmark of Christian maturity. Embrace maturity and thereby embrace wisdom. Do not fear to own your fault and sin for Christ owned it for you on the cross. Be fearless in pursuing repentance and thereby continuing to pursue maturity. Read your Bible daily. Pray with vigor and confidence. Teach your children, by showing them how to do both. Love the Law and teach your children to do the same. “Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before your God.” (Micah 6:8)
May our Lord grant you many years of continued zeal, a merciful spirit, and heart inclined to justice, and humility before God and men. May your life continue to be characterized by self-sacrifice and laying your life down for others.
You are my hero.
With love and respect,
I believe this father captured for his son what it means to be a “living sacrifice.” What is means to be a living hero. What is left unsaid, by the father to the son, is necessarily implied. The life and example of the son’s parents, and many others during this son’s childhood and life, contributed to the man he had become.
My own father served in World War II and the Korean conflict. While I served in the military during the Vietnam era, I never served in combat. I have many friends who did. I have many younger friends who have served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Combat is a life changing experience. It, like any other crisis in a person’s life, reveals character and never leaves a person unchanged. Crisis always reveals your character and changes you …always.
For better or for worse, crisis reveals the root of your character and brings change. Change in mind and life, change that will last a lifetime, change that will show the fruit of maturity and wisdom or foolishness and immaturity. Because I never served in combat I have, over the years, read a lot about it. I have spent many occasions, whenever I could, talking with men who have been in combat, seeking to understand the experience and how men respond to it. What is it in a person that is necessary to come to the place that you become willing to give up your very life on behalf of others, even it if means serious injury or a violent death.
I think I have come to discover the answer. It is this: Loving God with all you heart, mind, soul, and strength and loving your neighbor as you love yourself.
Life reveals character. It need not be the crisis of combat and in fact need not be a crisis at all. Your daily life reveals, incrementally and overtime, the content of your character. It will do the same for your children.