Thursday, October 09, 2008

Costly acts and eternal results

These words from Christian writer Luci Shaw’s book The Crime of Living Cautiously caught my eye as I was reflecting on our brothers and sisters in Orissa, India, where Hindu militant violence has raged on into its seventh week:

"When we gird up our loins for costly acts of obedience to Jesus, we remember that it was he who told us to “count the cost. But…even the cross does not confer a guaranteed benefit. We have to risk giving away our love as Jesus did. We won’t always be able to predict the results or benefits of sacrifice. The outcome of risky sacrifice, in temporal terms, is often kept secret in the mind of God rather than being revealed to us. All too often we do not see its results in our own lifetime."

In particular this quote made me think of those in India who have been martyred for their faith. These brothers and sisters are gone. Their bodies have been beaten by the tragedy of temporal time. Maybe they left this earth as mobs swarmed about them, buildings burned, and the cries of frightened children filled their ears. Perhaps they were killed before they had much time to consider how the surrender of their life, specifically, would impact the expansion of the Lord’s kingdom—or even affect the spread of the gospel in their local community. This not to assume, though, that the clarity of cross’s calling was not with these believers, no matter how panicked, chaotic or confused their last moments were. It could be, in fact, that their last costly acts of obedience were the result of them coming to understand true faithfulness for the first time.

What a comfort it is to remember that these believers now know, totally and completely, the magnitude of martyrdom in the context of the Lord’s kingdom! How amazing it is to think that can now “count the cost” in temporal and eternal terms. And who of us can deny that their sacrifices speak to the kind of faith we are all called to have: that of cross-bearing disciples who are willing to risk our very lives for righteousness’ sake?

The outcome of our acts may not be revealed to us in whole on earth. The necessity of sacrifice in the Christian walk, however, is most certainly not secret or hidden; God’s Word makes it unmistakably clear. Furthermore, we need only to hear the testimonies of persecuted believers to see that steadfast faithfulness bears fruit that is both tangible on earth and vital for eternity—even if the sweetness of its victory cannot be tasted in full until our Lord comes again.

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