I was at my grain mill, grinding flour for our daily bread. Out the window the rain came down–again. In the Northeast we haven’t had the violent outbreaks of tornadoes that have plagued the Midwest, but we’ve had an overabundance of storms, and many of them have been powerful, loud, lightning-laden cloudbursts. As I turned the flywheel around and around I was reminded of one particular 4th of July. I was 9 years old, and we were at my aunt and uncle’s house for a barbeque. Out of clear, blue skies came a powerful storm, and with it, tornadoes. I remember the fear of crouching in the basement hoping for safety. As we drove home later that night, power lines were down everywhere, branches and trees strewn about like pick-up sticks. And on our arrival home, our own 100-year old tree lay across the driveway and on our neighbor’s lawn.
The next day we learned that another neighbor had been at Lakewood Park on Lake Erie for the Independence Day festivities when the mighty storm hit. She was 16 years old. Amidst the wind, rain, lightning, and thunder, she took refuge under a huge, old tree. Suddenly, the tree was ripped from its roots and began to fall. At the last second, a boy nearby pushed her out of the way, and was killed right where she had just stood.
As I pondered this, some questions came to mind. Being only 9, I don’t remember all the details of the incident. I wondered if she knew the boy; if he were her friend or just a bystander. I wondered how her family dealt with the boy’s death, and whether or not they went to his funeral, and how it would be to face his parents, whose loss was so great, whose burden so incomprehensible, but whose sacrifice saved their own daughter. I especially wondered about the 16-year-old. Was she a wild girl, or well behaved? What impact did this boy have on her life, and how differently did she live afterward? Maybe it had no effect at all.
2 Corinthians 5:15
“And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”
In two different scenarios, people have universally asked of God, “Why ME?” The first is amidst their own personal suffering and pain, and the second is when they survived a tragedy that took the lives of others, such as a plane crash, or in a war.
So in a sort of role reversal, let’s say you are the 16-year-old girl. How do YOU feel when you ask, “Why me?” Let’s say you discover the boy was a pretty lousy person, selfish, mean-spirited, a bully and a braggart, and that in this, his final moment, he reached out and ended his life with this one selfless act. That might tempt you to feel somewhat justified about the whole situation, and yet I doubt that even then you would remain unchanged, unmotivated to live a better life. But what if he were your best friend?
One of the most agonizing occasions for any man or woman to ask “Why me?” is when faced with their life being spared at the expense of another better than their own. We instinctively see the unfairness of it, the injustice, the greatness of the other. The more we learn and know of the other’s life, their goodness and value, the little touches that made them distinct and powerful in their influence on the world, the more it moves us to respond. I submit that our response to that sacrifice is in direct proportion to our clear understanding of what occurred and who it was that gave their life for us.
When it comes to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for us, the Word of God is very clear on the state we were in:
(6) You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.
(7) Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.
(8) But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.
As to the state of Jesus Christ, our Sacrifice, the Word of God is also abundantly clear.
2 Corinthians 5:21
God made him who had no sin to be sin [a sin offering] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
He had no sin. NO sin. NO sin. Wow.
At this moment, stop and consider this man who died for you. How well do you really know him? Can you say you have a personal relationship with him, like you have with your best friend? Do you really understand what he’s done for you? Can you visualize a face for him, a smile, a moment with him in person? Would you sit with him and watch the television shows you watch? Would you tell the jokes you tell with him at your side? Would you get up and answer the phone for a needy friend at 10 p.m. if Jesus were staying with you? Because he IS at your side, and he IS with you. Again I submit that your response to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ will be in direct proportion to your clear understanding of what occurred and who it was that gave his life for you.
How was it that Paul was able to say:
(7) But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
(8) What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ
(9) and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.
(10) I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
(11) and so somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Who wants to party with someone who guarantees that, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…” (2 Tim. 3:12)? Paul did. Why? He must have known Jesus Christ so personally that he saw something glorious! He understood the nature of life, and where this thing is going, and what Jesus has in store. Why you? For God so loved you that He gave His only begotten Son for you, that whosoever you are, you could share in eternal life (John 3:16). God saw value in you, in your abilities and life. And Jesus pushed you out of the way of the falling tree.
1 John 3:1
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
1 John 3:16a
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.
So now what? The ball is in your court. As you get to know your Lord, as you develop your understanding of just who he was/is and what he did/is doing/will do for you, you will find your response approximating the sacrifice. It is then that you can fulfill Ephesians 4:1:
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”