In the first few days following Easter, a great Scripture transforms it into a 365-day theology (instead of a 3-day weekend): “In view of God’s mercy . . . offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1–niv).
Jim Elliot, martyred missionary to the Ecuadorian Waodani Indians, journaled in 1949, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Prophetically, he had journaled these words a little over six years before he would actually be forced to reveal how much he believed them true. He and four other brothers in Christ were brutally murdered while simply attempting to reveal the truth of Jesus to those who did not yet know Him. This–Elliot firmly believed–was a Reason worth laying his life down for. He would leave a wife and a 10-month-old daughter behind. Of course, we see this as tragic–and it is. But, it’s not as tragic as we might think.
What did he lose? His life, yes. But, that’s something we’re all going to lose . . . since it’s never a matter of if, but when. Since we’re all going to die, did he really lose anything? He certainly had to let go of his family faster than most of us will or would ever want to. That’s tragic, too, of course. But, what if giving up his family in the short-term meant he could grow THE FAMILY OF GOD in the eternal term? You see, those 5 missionaries’ deaths weren’t the final chapter of what happened in Ecuador. The man who actually killed Elliot later noted that the missionaries had guns in their possession, but refused to use them. They didn’t defend themselves, so as to sacrificially communicate God’s kindness. It cost them their lives, but it didn’t cost them something they were going to be able to hold onto anyway. The Waodani who killed Elliot would later say: “I have killed twelve people with my spear! But I did that when my heart was black. Now Jesus’ blood has washed my heart clean, so I don’t live like that anymore.” Was God saddened and outraged that His servants were murdered? Yes. Is that the only way the Waodani could have come to know Christ as their Savior? That’s unknowable. But, did God use this tragedy for good? Yes. In that way, it confounds our sense of what tragedy is. Jim Elliot was no fool to lay down his life as a “living sacrifice.” Neither are you a fool when you do the same thing. In fact, when it says this decision is our “true and proper worship,” literally he says that it is the logikos (lah-gee-koss) choice of how to live (and die) in light of God. It’s where we get our word logical.
Basically, reasonable people know where to invest their lives. Illogical people invest it into stuff that they can’t carry with them across eternity’s threshold. In Jim Elliot’s journal where he first penned those famous words in 1949, his immediate thoughts that followed were a reference to Luke 16:9–
Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.