In Ernest Gordon’s, Miracle on the River Kwai, the Scottish soldiers were forced by their Japanese captors to labor on a jungle railroad. Over time morale faded and behavior degenerated to barbarous levels. But one afternoon something happened that changed everything. At the first tool check following their work for the day, a shovel was missing. The officer in charge became enraged and demanded the missing shovel be produced, or else. When nobody in the squadron budged, the officer pulled his weapon and threatened to kill them all on the spot. In that tension filled moment it was obvious the officer meant what he said. Finally one man stepped forward. The officer holstered his weapon, picked up a shovel, and beat the man to death. When it was over, members of the squadron picked up the bloody corpse and carried it with them to the second tool check. This time, no shovel was missing. There had been a miscount at the first check point.
News of the incident spread like wildfire through the entire prison camp – an innocent man had been willing to die to save others! His actions had a profound effect as the prisoners began to treat each other like brothers. When the victorious Allies swept in, the survivors, malnourished and looking like human skeletons, lined up in front of their captors. Instead of attacking them, they insisted, “No more hatred; no more killing; what we need now is forgiveness.”
Sacrificial love has transforming power. The apostle Paul described it this way: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrated his own love for us in this – while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
In a world where morale is eroding and behavior is becoming increasingly violent, we have the message that can produce righteousness and peace. But we must understand as well that our actions provide the platform for sharing that message. Jesus left no ambiguities when he declared in John 13, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (vv.34-35).
May we strive to obey his command that others may come to know him as we do!
In His Love,