“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. You will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged. You will be hated by everyone because of me.” - excerpts of Matthew 10:16-22 (NIV)
When Jesus sent his disciples out among the people of Palestine to spread the good news of the gospel, he pulled no punches. He was up front and blatantly clear about the virulence and violence the disciples would encounter on the gospel mission. And yet, despite foreknowing the lethal dangers awaiting them, the disciples accepted the charge and engaged Jesus’ mission.
What motivates people to place themselves in harm’s way in efforts to save others? What moves public safety officials to rush into deadly danger zones to put out fires, to rescue those in peril and to restore peace? What drives military personnel to place their lives on the line in defense of a nation? What spurs justice activists to risk their lives in protest of institutional iniquity?
According to the 13th century Scottish freedom fighter, William Wallace, every person dies but not every person really lives. Our greatest challenge is not in dying but in living our lives in the fullness of our values and purpose. Life that is denied or disconnected from value and purpose is mere existence.
Bravery in the face of death is admirable. But the willingness to see your life in service to transcendent values that save humanity surpasses bravery. At the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. Benjamin E. Mays spoke these words by Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“See how the masses worry themselves into nameless graves, while every now and then a great soul appears, who loses himself into immortality.”
Lord, give me the faith to not allow death to ever prevent me from living. Amen.
Kenneth L. Samuel is Pastor of Victory for the World Church, Stone Mountain, Georgia.