The Ultimate Act of Selflessness April 20 2019

(Part of BCF’S blog series: “Society, Selflessness, and the Scriptures")

When I was going through Boy Scouts back in my small home town in Virginia, I remember reading in the scouting magazine Boy’s Life about acts of heroism by scouts across the country. I was always impressed about how young kids could be that brave or considerate, and we were reminded of this scouting reputation on a regular basis.  “Brave” is one of the 12 points of the scout law, which those of you who have gone through the program may remember as: “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.” Some 170 of these Boy Scout acts of heroism are documented in a recent book entitled “Running Toward Danger.”

While the brave, selfless acts of Boy Scouts are certainly commendable and may have saved many lives, one selfless act that changed the world stands alone – the one we remember this Easter weekend. Jesus’ sacrificial, selfless death on the cross, and His resurrection, continue to save lives and change lives today.

The fact that we can receive eternal life as a gift, though we are deserving of spiritual death, is a message so simple that a child can understand it; but at the same time, it is a truth so profound that we will never be able to fully comprehend the magnitude of it. Peter attempted to describe it in his first letter, addressed to Christians who were enduring suffering in other lands:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you ….” (1 Peter 1:3-4)

This amazing hope, this inexhaustible gift, remains available to all. Verse 9 of 2 Corinthians 8 puts it all in perspective:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.

It is heartbreaking that this greatest of all gifts is so often overlooked or dismissed. Saddest of all, His sacrifice is often even mocked.

This short, simple blog is just a reminder of how powerful and relevant that sacrifice remains for us today. The sacrifice of the Messiah was prophesied in the Old Testament and fulfilled by the “lamb of God” 2000 years ago, providing the “once for all” sacrifice (Hebrews 10:10) that burnt offerings could never fulfill. This ultimate act of selflessness is highlighted in the way the Scriptures speak about death. Here are just a few examples:

  • The willingness to die for someone else is the supreme act of love: John 15:13 – “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”
  • There is no way that we deserve that love: Roman 5:6-8 – “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
  • Jesus willingly suffered this sacrificial death not only to redeem us, but so that we would live for Him, not ourselves: 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 – “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”
  • This passage is followed by an expression of our redemption in verse 17: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

Part of the story of the Boy Scout acts of heroism is how grateful the people were to have been saved from physical harm. If you or I had been dramatically rescued from physical death, and possibly some of you have, we would be overflowing with gratitude.

Given the magnitude of Jesus’ sacrifice, which leads to an “inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away,” our gratitude should be profuse; it should overflow with love for God and others. This Easter, my prayer is that we would all have an even greater appreciation of “how great a love the Father has bestowed on us” (I John 3:1), and that this would result in our living, not for ourselves, but for Him and others. God bless you and your family as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.

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Steve Smith