Acts of sacrificial service can change the culture of a family, a church, a business, or any other organization.
During World War II, the Japanese used 180,000 Asian laborers and 60,000 Allied prisoners of war to build a railroad through the jungle from Bangkok, Thailand, to Rangoon, Burma (now Myanmar). It wasn't called “The Death Railway” for nothing. The conditions were so brutal that over 400 men died for every mile of track built, about 106,000 in all. With little food, brutal beatings, and death in the air each day, the men soon lived like animals. They despised those who got a morsel of food more than they received, and they hated those who didn't have to work quite as hard. The esprit de corps of the Allied armies deteriorated into barbarism.
At the end of a day’s hard work, the Japanese captain ordered all the prisoners to come back and stand at attention. He announced that a shovel was missing when his soldiers counted them after work had stopped that day. He held up a pistol and said that if the thief didn't confess, he would begin shooting prisoners. They knew this was no idle threat. Suddenly, a voice was heard from the back of the formation: “I did it. I took the shovel.” A haggard man stepped forward to face the captain. In an instant the captain picked up a shovel and beat him to death in front of his comrades.
A few minutes later, a second count showed that the shovel hadn't been missing after all. The man had sacrificed himself to save other men, and they all realized the meaning of what he had done. Suddenly, the atmosphere of the camp changed. Men who had been at each other’s throats the day before now understood they had another shot at life, a gift from one of their friends. They stopped hating each other and began looking for ways to help each other. When one of them was sick, the others picked up the slack. They freely gave support, food, and love to one another—all because one man had died for the rest.
The death of Christ on the cross affects us as a community as well as individually. As Americans, we may be rugged individualists, but that’s not how God wants us to live
. When we grasp Christ’s sacrifice of blood, we’re willing to sacrifice our time, our money, and our hearts for those around us. And as we make even small sacrifices, the people who receive our love “pay it forward” to love others. It’s a beautiful thing to see. Hatred is contagious in close quarters, but so is compassion—and we don’t need antibodies for love!
What is one act of courageous kindness you can show today?