sharper focus ‘ The theology of self-sacrifice’

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By Lawrence Shiroma, Major

 “He was wounded for our transgressions” (Isaiah 53:5 NIV).

While visiting our daughter and her family during furlough, I reread the western classic, Shane, by Jack Schaefer. It is the story of a stranger who rides into a Wyoming valley at the heart of the West, and when his work was done rode back from whence he came. It is the story of a gunfighter who had laid down his weapon, a Colt six-shooter, in an effort to lead a different type of life, only to reluctantly pick it up again to save those who were being oppressed. It is the inspiring story of a man wounded in battle, but succeeding in protecting others at the cost of his life.

The theology of Shane is the theology of self-sacrifice.

Movies and books that tug at my heart invariably have the element of self-sacrifice. The recent movie Thor has it. When faced with the Destroyer, a seemingly indestructible automaton sent to kill him, the warrior Thor willingly lays down his life in order to save the lives of others. His self-sacrifice proves him worthy to again wield his weapon, the hammer Mjölnir. In the animated feature movie Tangled, Flynn Ryder, the fun-loving bandit, gives his life so that Rapunzel may have her chance of freedom.

Self-sacrifice does not have to be dramatic. As a teenager, I rode the Honolulu city bus with my mom from Kalihi Valley to Harry’s Music Store in Kaimuki on the island of Oahu to purchase an instrument. My dad was a bus driver and my mom was a cook for Kalihi-Kai Elementary School. They both worked long hours to raise the four of us kids. Even with a home mortgage and medical bills to pay, they used their hard-earned wages to buy me a brand new Olds trombone at Harry’s Music so that I could play in the Farrington High School band. I played this beautiful horn through high school and college, then thoughtlessly sold it upon entering the military—something only a self-centered son would do.

In Becoming a Contagious Christian, Bill Hybels writes that believers are called to be authentic in the expression of their faith, but of all the characteristics of a Christ follower, the strongest, the most compelling, is not authenticity—important as it is—but that of self-sacrifice. Sacrificial acts, like those of my parents purchasing a new trombone for their son when they could barely pay their bills, are rarely forgotten and impact people for a lifetime. The bus ride to the music store with my mom was almost half a century ago, but the memory still brings tears to my eyes whenever I dwell upon her selflessness.

Many Salvationists live lives of self-sacrifice. 1 John 3:18 reads, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. Corps Sergeant-Major Lily Chin of the San Francisco Chinatown Corps exemplifies this verse. Her compassion to help others in need, whether doing physical health and tuberculosis checks for the homeless, or assisting Chinese immigrants to America get a new start in life, demonstrates a life of self-sacrifice.

Corps Sergeant-Major Jenni Ragland of the Anchorage Corps also reflects qualities of self-sacrifice. Freely giving away the gift of hospitality, she regularly invites corps people and visitors, those near and far from the Lord, into her home where she and her family prepare a warm dinner and a time of fellowship for all.

Dedicated, unsung Sunday school teachers like Randall Silvers at the Long Beach Citadel Corps and Major Melba Gilden at the Riverside Corps, for example, freely give of their time in careful preparation of their Bible lessons. The list goes on and on. We see family members and Salvationists living out lives of self-sacrifice, living out Scripture, giving to others freely, becoming more and more like Christ. May we be encouraged and compelled to do the same.

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 (Rom. 12:1 NKJV).

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