In his Easter message, MM Editor, the Rev Robert Blasdell, who married Dr Shellabear’s daughter, Fanny, reflects on the meaning of the sacrificial life.
‘NO ONE who reads the twelfth chapter of Romans can doubt the earnestness of Paul in urging the Christians at Rome to “present your bodies a living sacrifice”, but it may be questioned whether the Roman Christians caught the significance of that exhortation, or what is more to the point, what meaning it conveys to the Church today.
The Church has not lost the word “sacrifice” out of her vocabulary, but it may be seriously questioned if she has not in a large measure lost it out of her practice. If so, this is a timely exhortation for the present day.
Sacrifice does not consist in mere giving. The rich men who gave much to the temple treasury received no commendation for their giving. They did only their duty in giving much, and perhaps not even their full duty. The poor widow was commended, although she gave only an insignificant amount, because her very existence was involved in her gift – she gave all that she had.
People who seek the Christian grace of sacrifice should ponder deeply the act of the poor widow and should not feel too well satisfied in their giving, however large their gift, until their giving has involved something vital to their very existence.
Sacrifice involves a keen sense of loss and pain. It is giving when, in common language we cannot afford to do so – when to give will deprive us of something which we actually need.
It involves a subordination of the needs of one’s self to some other person or cause, as when parents spend for themselves less than they need in order that their children may receive an education or when a citizen gives up some remunerative employment that he may serve his country, or when a young man turns his back upon a career bright promise of material success to serve the Church.
What, then, are we to understand by “a living sacrifice”? If sacrifice means a giving which involves loss and pain, what else can a living sacrifice mean than daily giving which brings with it a sense of privation? A living sacrifice is not one that is offered on one occasion only. That might not be so difficult – the offering of something which would involve only momentary paid and then free us from further responsibility. It is a perpetual offering as long as life lasts. It is a daily denying of self, a taking up of the Cross daily.
And our reaction? It is too high, I cannot attain unto it? Then let us seriously examine our life and experience. Here we stand on the threshold of Good Friday. We stand face to face with the Cross, the symbol of sacrifice, and we are forcefully reminded of Him who, above all other examples that might be pointed out, was truly a living sacrifice.
Not only in the last great act of sacrifice on the cross, but in His whole life, He exemplified this ideal of Christian living. “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich.”
Day by day He endured the reproaches of men and the persecutions of His enemies when He might have escaped it all. Let us who enjoy a sufficient supply for our daily needs consider “Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”
We who have homes and loved ones and are surrounded with a reasonable degree of comfort may well ponder the condition of Him who said, “Foxes have holes and the birds of the air their nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.”
He was the great Living Sacrifice, and may God give us at this time as we ponder anew the depth of meaning of that sacrifice which culminated in a cruel death on the Cross for a sinful humanity, to catch some inspiration which will enable us to order our lives so that, with what grace we may be able to command, we may present our bodies a living sacrifice. Holy, acceptable unto God, which is our reasonable service.’ — MM, April 1934, page 7.