Prepared to Pay the Price

In the pre-dawn darkness, we gathered with hundreds of others on ANZAC morning last week. In reflection and anticipation we approached the dawn and celebration of the selfless service and sacrifice of generations of men and women prepared to pay the price for the freedom of others.  On this annually observed national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, we pause to remember those who served and died in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.  We are reminded of the contribution and suffering of all those who have served.

This year, as Tracey and I shared in the experience, we were moved once again by such willing sacrifice. From where we stood, we watched in solemnity as veterans and service personnel marched to the memorial site following behind the flag parties.  In the pageantry of the flags, we saw the unfurled banned of The Salvation Army mixed in with the many other flags.  My mind and heart were stirred as I reflected on the generations of men and women who served under another flag of colours – red, yellow and blue – prepared to pay the price for the freedom of others as well.

John Stott wrote: “The place of suffering in service and of passion in mission is hardly ever taught today.  But the greatest single secret of evangelistic or missionary effectiveness is the willingness to suffer and die.  It may be death to:
popularity (by faithfully preaching the unpopular biblical gospel),
or to pride (by the use of modest methods in reliance on the Holy Spirit),
or to racial and national prejudice (by identification with another culture),
or to material comfort (by adopting a simpler lifestyle).
But the servant must suffer if he is to bring the light to the nations, and the seed must die if it is to multiply.”

As we complete our nation-wide tour of Salvation Army expressions, we stand in awe with hearts filled with thanksgiving for Salvos across Australia who willingly are choosing sacrificial service in response to God’s call. This is the call to join God in what he is doing as Australia is transformed one life at a time with the love of Jesus. We see Salvos who know the experience of being free in Christ, prepared to sacrifice their own agenda, accomplishments, and activities that others might find that freedom.

In these weeks of Self-Denial emphasis, we hear the call again from Scripture and lived experience of generations of Salvationists, to deny ourselves and live more simply, that others might simply live.  Can we as The Salvation Army call ourselves a holiness movement without the evidence of Christ-likeness among our people? Christ willingly laid down his life as the Good Shepherd will for his sheep. Declaring that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for another, he demonstrated the depth of his love in sacrifice.  He calls us to follow Him – to love as we have been loved – sacrificially.

As I walked away from the dawn service, the words of Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome came to mind – “In view of God’s mercy, offer your body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.”   (Romans 12:1)  Would you wrestle with me through what that looks like to a Salvo in Australia in 2018?  What does sacrifice look like for you, for me, in view of God’s mercy and love?

What will tomorrow’s stories tell of today’s lives and sacrifices?  How will tomorrow be different because of the surrender, service and sacrifice of followers of the one who laid down his life that others might find life in all its fullness?  We are writing those stories today.

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