Tsutomu Yamaguchi worked hard and finally landed a position at Mitsubishi. It was his big break. He knew he’d made it when management started sending him places, like on a three month assignment to their major hub in the city of Hiroshima. He was working there, when one morning an American B-29 Superfortress flew over the city. The bombay doors of the plane swung opened and dropped a 5,000 pound object that fell for a while and then exploded in a hell of fire. The concussion knocked Yamaguchi to the ground, burned a large part of his body, and ruptured both of his eardrums. At least he’d survived.
After being treated for burns and swaddled in bandages, he reported to work the next day back in his home town of Nagasaki. A few days later as he was describing the horrors of Hiroshima to his supervisor, another American B-29 Superfortress flew overhead. It dropped an object called “Fat Man.” Again, there was an unbelievable flash and deafening explosion. Again, Yamagushi survived. He had never been in favor of the war at all—had believed Japan was wrong to attack America to begin with. What did he ever do to deserve this?
A victim and a sacrifice are two different things. Yamaguchi was a victim. Jesus was a sacrifice. Jesus willingly walked onto the ultimate ground zero—the cross. He knew He would become sin for us and endure the wrath of God in our place. He hadn’t agonized in the garden about the nails and the whipping. Instead, He had dreaded the wrath of His almighty and holy Father, the darkness, the loss of fellowship, the unimaginable flash and fire of bearing the sins of billions of other souls. After tears, pleas, and heavy prayer, He got up and went there.
And now you’ve become deeply involved with this Person. You are in Him and He is in you. Something is bound to happen as a result. Your bearing and attitude is set to change. You’ll find yourself making decisions for God that won’t lead to cushioned recliners. Sometimes the path leads straight into your own ground zero. At that point, you yourself become something of a sacrifice.
Exodus 29:22-24 presents us a surreal moment. The priest of God stands there, his hands loaded with ram entrails, fat, a dismembered ram thigh, bread, wafers, and oil. It’s a sacrifice called the consecration (or, ordination) offering. Remember that consecrate means “to fill the hand.” His hands are full—too full to hold anything else or do anything else. The guy couldn’t even button a shirt. His hands are much too full for endless interests, hobbies, and secondary lifestyles. We begin to wonder which is really the sacrifice—the man or what’s in his hands?
Because of our involvement with Christ, we’re told to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom 12:2). That’s our normal setting. The Bible calls it “good, and acceptable, and perfect” (Rom. 12:3), which is exactly how we feel when we’re living that way.
So much self-interest has trickled into our churches that we constantly pump out people who are poorly equipped to even inconvenience themselves, let alone become a sacrifice. Such folks see sacrifice as unfortunate—what people must do when they have no other options. Sacrifice is sad. Depressing. The message of mainstream Christianity thus warps into receiving, not giving. And even when we give, we are promised that speedy repayment will most certainly come.
Something deep within all of us knows such views are not “good and acceptable, and perfect.” I recently read some surveys that showed where Christians typically identify the golden days of their spiritual life. Most of them went straight to the times where they were most occupied with Christ and His mission. Typically, these happened outside the optimal conditions of comfort, rest, and financial security.
It was when knees bent down to crummy linoleum tile floors or smelly basement carpets and prayer gushed out in an unpolished torrent. It was when hopes and dreams didn’t revolve around which stock investment to pick, but whether a certain girl would finally step out of atheism and dive into the saving grace of Christ. Or a certain man would at long last, through tears, confess his sins to a couple of Christian buddies who had walked with him for years up until that breakthrough moment. It was small bands of disciples whose “lifeplan” had been poorly thought through, but whose Savior had been carefully contemplated.
I remember standing on a campus oval in Cleveland, asking people who passed, one by one, if they had a moment to talk about Jesus. Okay, there are probably better ways of doing evangelism, but it was the only approach I had. Some folks said no. Some just walked past as though I didn’t exist. A few looked at me with pity. But Jesus was there standing with me as I poured my time (and ego) out for Him in the only way I knew how. That alone put me squarely at the center of the world. And so I looked back at them thinking, Never pity the fellow who has everything.
Hands full of Christ—beautiful.