Friday, February 17, 2012

A Call To Sacrifice

Lev 23:22: “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God."

Notice the text tells us that the reaper is to leave the edges of the field and what he has dropped for the poor. In the secular world, the reaper is within his rights to reap his whole field and collect whatever was there. After all, it is his own field and he is entitled to everything there. Anyone else entering his fields would be considered a trespasser. Yet God commands the Israelite owner to give up what was rightfully his so that others less fortunate may also be provided for. That is exactly what Jesus did for us. When we were lost and poor, alienated from God, Jesus did not hold on tight to his rights as God. He did not cut us loose saying that we deserve it. He did not argue and say ‘why should I go?’ when our Heavenly Father laid the plan for our salvation. Instead, the Bible tells us that he “who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped…” And so he came to sacrifice his life for us so that we may be redeemed and reconciled to God.

That is the example he has set for us. The lesson we can learn here is that true Christian faith is one that involves sacrifice on our part. And sacrifice means there is a cost involved. If we give up something that does not cost us anything, we cannot say we are making a sacrifice. Now I am not here to talk about tithing obligations. That is obligatory on the part of every Christian of course. However, that should not be the only sacrifice that Christians make. If that were so, it makes us merely paymasters while the church leaders do all the work.

True Christian faith is about considering the needs of those least able to look after themselves. We all love to sing and hear the songs of Fanny Crosby. At the age of six months, she became blind due to a doctor’s carelessness. In her biography, three people outside her family are mentioned as being of profound influence on her life. One was Mrs. Hawley, her neighbour. When Fanny was a little girl, Mrs. Hawley would spend time reading and telling her stories from the Bible. When Fanny began schooling in New York City, one of her school teachers, Murray Hamilton, had a great influence on her Christian life. Then she was about forty, she met William Bradbury, a music publisher who influenced her to write Christian songs. Prior to this, Fanny had been writing secular music sung in the traveling minstrel shows much like our pop music today. Thus she began writing her beautiful hymns like ‘Pass me Not O Gentle Savior’, ‘Trust and Obey’, ‘Blessed Assurance’, etc. Three people considered it worthwhile investing time in a girl blind from childhood. They did not think that since she is blind, it would be more useful to invest in someone less handicapped. This was mid-19th Century where the blind really did not have much hope of a quality life, unlike the blind people of today. Yet their influence on Fanny Crosby’s life continues to have effect on us even today, through the hymns and songs that she wrote.

John Wesley once said “Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can.” That is a good maxim that Christians ought to follow. Every Christian should strive to be a great ambassador for Christ to a watching world. We should examine ourselves to see if what we are doing makes a positive impact on the people around us. We should realize that our Christian community is the only witness to the world about what God is like - to show that God cares for each individual regardless of the person’s gifts and abilities. That God’s compassion extends to those who are dispossessed, disenfranchised and marginalized. He expects those who have more to give to those who have little. We must decide to do all we can to pour God's love out into our surrounding community in tangible ways. A church that claims to be under the Lordship of Christ has to consider the little or much of its various outreach programmes to non-Christians, its acts of charity and love to those in need. This was Timothy Keller’s thesis in his book, ‘Ministry of Mercy’. Partnerships should be formed with other community organizations (such as charities, schools, homes for the poor, etc) to work together on issues facing the larger community outside the church gates.

All of us should examine ourselves to see if we can support these events and activities with our time and abilities. When we do these things, we are continuing a tradition of embodying God’s character to the world. Remember it is the Christian Church that brought hospitals, nursing homes, and other institutions of compassion to the world. I am a product of the Helping Hand, a ministry to drug addicts. In Singapore, the first ministry to drug addicts came out of the Christian community. That was in 1976. Today, many people like me have a chance to live a meaningful and abundant life because of this ministry. What is even more significant is that other racial and religious groups have followed by setting up halfway houses for their own affiliation. Our traditions of outreach and being a blessing wherever we are can only continue to work when each of us willingly answers the call to sacrifice what we have for the sake of others who do not have. The practice of true Christian faith is to sacrifice for those who cannot or can least pay us back.

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