True Meaning of Sacrifice [v50]

APRIL 2003

THE TRUE MEANING OF SACRIFICE: I’ve got to believe that most of us have some kind of ‘personal’ connection with the troops in Iraq—whether family, friend or acquaintance—and the tumult of this present crisis has produced many responses: debate, protest, fear, anxiety, and even anger. But, even in troubled times like these, I believe we can gain a deeper understanding of the true meaning of sacrifice.

Hopefully we can all consider the price paid now by the lonely families separated for many months and many miles, and the young soldiers who are bravely fighting for their country—as well as by those we never knew in the past who died defending our and other countries’ freedom. Though I try, having never been closely involved or even ‘related’ to the terrible destruction war brings, it is very hard to truly understand the deep emotional conviction and demands of their sacrifice.

War shakes a nation to its very core. In 1879, General William T. Sherman spoke out against glorifying war at Michigan Military Academy. He said, “War is at best barbarism. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is hell!”

Most veterans emphatically agree with this sentiment, but recognize the power of evil. Many of our wars have been rooted in this struggle between good and evil. For example, we can certainly see a difference in objectives between Allied forces and Axis powers during World War II. The Axis countries sought world dominance, practiced racial discrimination, and murdered millions of their own “unwanted” people. This is not to say Allied soldiers did no evil, nor does it suppose every soldier in the Axis armies was wicked. The overall characterization of the two forces, however, was one of good and evil.

I submit that the God of the Bible uses a ‘selected’ group(s) to defeat the evil caused by others—and He has charged governments with the responsibility to bring His justice upon wrongdoers through the exercise of police, judicial, and military powers.

The Bible records certain occasions that God appeared to men and instructed them to fight battles. God trained, directed, and helped them, thereby ensuring victory. Many examples are presented which God used combat to accomplish His purposes. Joshua, Gideon, Saul, and David. were all soldiers from Israel that were “God’s warriors.” But God also commanded and helped soldiers from other nations, including Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus. God has trained warriors and assisted them in accomplishing His purpose.

The blessings of an orderly and peaceful society are proportional to the degree to which governments properly wield this power. Governments that refuse the power—or that abuse it—will eventually be the recipient to God’s wrath. Either they become the means by which evil is visited upon His children or they fail to prevent the visitation of evil as perpetrated by others. In the Bible, God has clearly commanded governments to act as His agents in the earth to punish wrongdoers—even with death—and thwart the military objectives of evil rulers. Failing to do so is a sure way to bring down God’s judgment upon a nation.

There is a passage in the Bible that unequivocally establishes the requirement that human governments exercise the death penalty: “It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the LORD your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” [Deuteronomy 9:5].

It seems to me that there are two major areas which we humans have a difficult time reconciling —God’s love vs. God’s righteousness. God is loving—but love requires justice. Just as I discipline my children when they disobey, God disciplines me if I don’t meet His requirements. The problem for us is that we cannot keep all of God’s laws because of our pride and self-centeredness. The way I read it, God would have been completely just and loving in destroying all of us for our disobedience to Him. It is only through His extraordinary love, grace and mercy that we are allowed to choose to obey Him or not.

In order to maintain His righteousness, God must judge sin—everything that goes against His character. If God let everyone into Heaven, then He would have to allow in people such as Stalin and Hitler. Obviously, heaven would not be a good place to be with the likes of those people there. Therefore, God’s righteousness requires the judgment of all sin. Only those people who agree with God and are willing to allow themselves to be changed into sinless beings can enter into Heaven.

From a human point of view, the development of the “just war theory” to exclude retribution, strikes me as sound from a Biblical viewpoint. An appropriate regard for the sanctity of human life and the inherent dignity of the human person excludes killing or injuring even wrongdoers—not to mention noncombatants who always suffer as a consequence of war—except where it is necessary to defend potential victims of aggression. Sometimes going to war is the ‘charitable’ thing to do.

I can’t believe that anyone doubts that Saddam is a brutal tyrant who has engaged in aggression against his neighbors and even used chemical and biological weapons against his political opponents and innocent people within his own country. He has a consistent record of defying U.N. mandates and the history of weapons inspections in Iraq has not been encouraging. I fear that unless Saddam is removed from power, he will obtain nuclear weapons and use them, or threaten to use them as part of a strategy of extorting concessions from his victims. In any case, deterring his aggression would require the United States to adopt a policy of threatening to retaliate against Iraqi population centers if Saddam makes use of his nuclear arms.

I believe that, from a Christian point of view, we have a totally different understanding of this issue. We don’t see war with Iraq as aggression or even as primarily a military action. We don’t see it as conquering or defending territory. Rather it is, as Thomas Aquinas put it, an act of Christian love. Out of love of neighbor, we are even willing to use arms to protect the innocent. Christian charity will not look the other way when innocent people are being put in grave danger.

We need to be clear that terrorism, whether religiously, politically, or ideologically motivated, begins as a mindset—what the Bible calls a thought of the heart. In this case, alienated persons are driven by bitterness at real or fancied wrongs, by some form of racial or class hatred, and by utopian dreams of better things after the present order has been smashed. This is an explosive mix.

Adrian Rodgers said it well: “The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart.”

In my view, America’s war aim is not just retributive justice (though it certainly is that, as far as the terrorists are concerned). It is primarily to prevent such attacks in the future by eliminating their source. War is always evil, but in our nightmare scenario, where more terrorism as a follow-up is confidently promised, a war of suppression appears to most as the lesser evil. However burdensome, it is surely the best and only rational course.

Even Jesus, during His life and ministry here on Earth, had opportunities to declare military action ‘off-limits’. To the woman caught in adultery, He said, “Go and sin no more.” He could have given these same instructions to the Roman centurion cited in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 8, but He didn’t. If Jesus wanted to condemn the profession of arms, this encounter provided an ideal opportunity. Instead, He commended the Roman soldier for his faith—and if you believe Jesus is God incarnate, then I’ve got to believe that He was trying to instruct us on how to properly handle these situations.

I have heard of stories of soldiers that, with compete disregard for their own security, assisted several others, despite heavy fire, to safety—with some being wounded and unable to continue—and others actually losing their own life while saving another.

I am deeply moved by such sacrifice—saving one’s life—just as many soldiers have done in the past, and I’m sure will do for their buddies during the Iraq conflict. Even how much this would mean to me personally—to have been saved from certain death—it makes me wonder about the depth of love I should feel toward Jesus, who paid a far greater price to save my, and your soul. No one has ever sacrificed so much.

The implications of this sacrifice must be considered honestly. The Bible says that everything depends on it. Here is what the Apostle Paul said:

[God] “commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” [Acts 17:30-31].

According to the Bible, the eternal destiny of every human is at stake. Because of what Jesus did, each of us has two choices. We can live forever under God’s blessing in Heaven, or we can be separated from Him eternally in the torment of hell. It all depends on our response to Jesus’ resurrection.

Our destiny is in God’s hands. He alone must be satisfied. Not scientists. Not philosophers. Not educators. Not even our commanding officer. That’s why what you believe about the resurrection is a matter of eternal life or eternal death.

A renowned Korean speaker, Billy Kim, told the story of an American soldier hiding in a bunker during the Korean War. When his commander ordered him to rescue some of his fallen mates on the front lines, the soldier nodded his head, took a covert glance at his watch, stalled till his commanding officer was out of sight, and simply made no move. Several minutes went by, and a colleague reminded him of his rescue assignment. Again he looked at his watch and delayed. Finally, he leaped out of the bunker and fearlessly began carrying his compatriots to safety. At the end of the day, a friend asked him to explain his actions. The soldier said, “I was afraid because I knew I was not ready to die. I waited until my fear would be overcome—remembering that at a certain time every hour my mother had said she would pray for me. Then I knew that no matter what awaited me, I could face it.”

Prayer does matter. Prayer does change things. Prayer is a powerful means of connecting to the God of the Eternal.

So I urge you to pray. Pray however the Spirit moves and groans within you. Pray for our soldiers, risking their lives. Pray for our President, the vice-president, for the Cabinet and Congress. Pray for the citizens of Iraq. Pray for the protestors in the street. Pray for the embedded journalists. Pray for the human shields. Pray for the person in your office who thinks exactly the opposite way from you about this war. Pray for Saddam, his advisors, and the Iraqi soldiers risking their lives.

Pray for peace. Pray for peace in the world—but also pray for peace right here at home—in our schools, our offices, our neighborhoods. Pray for peace in our families and among our friends and acquaintances. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  [Philippians 4:7]

Above all, pray for Jesus to take up ‘residence’ on your own heart—because if there is ever to be peace in this world, it will only come when peace has made a home inside each one of us. Have you encountered the living Christ? He is willing to come and live in your heart if you are willing to repent of your sins and place your trust in Him who was ‘sacrificed’ for you—and paid the penalty of all of your sins for you.

May we in the ‘West’ never take our freedoms for granted for, “Eternal vigilance is still the price of freedom.” And above all, that includes moral vigilance. For as God’s Word says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” [Proverbs 14:34]. As Jesus told us to remember the sacrifice He made for us, let us also remember all who have given their lives to give us the wonderful freedoms we know today—for there is always a great price to purchase and maintain freedom.

May God give us all wisdom and grace. May righteousness prevail.

[Excerpts from: Charles Colson; Robert P. George; Rev. Kit Carlson ; Col. Rick Bereit]



If you have a ‘neat’ story or some thoughts about an issue or current event that you would like me to try to respond to, I would be glad to give it a try…so, send them to me at:

Thanks to:


The soldier slides his sword into its sheath
Having completed the missions given to him
Grateful to be one of the few men to leave
After hanging his life on war’s proverbial limb

He has done his duty…he has given his all
Then to country, home and hearth he returns
But he can not read the writing on the wall
That the heat of battle eternally burns

He can put his trust in no one
For the enemy still eats at his soul
Caught in a hell with nowhere to run
Believing nothing will make him whole

This sacrificed soldier will always bleed
Whipped and tortured by the thorns of war
Rejected and scorned by those he freed
Stoned for his deeds on a foreign shore

The blood on his hands refuses to dry
A constant reminder of where he has been
His will to survive fights with his wish to die
In this carnal world of throw-away men

He has seen too much…killed too many
Propelling his god just beyond his reach
Searching for life’s true meaning, if any
Soul swaying, fore’er standing in the breach

Time proves only the war still remains
Its hands stirring the grains of orange dust
An endless tune resounding in horrific strains
Its death knell extolling the demise of the just

A prisoner of war is this sacrificed man
Dwelling in a camp of suffering and pain
His soul at the mercy of the great I Am
Caught in a world where nightmares reign

Will he ever find peace here on this earth
Before death’s fingers encircle his throat
Or will peace remain just beyond his girth
Abandoning him eternally to a land remote

Will no one heed the gutteral cries
Of this bleeding soldier swaying in the wind
Seeing his own soul burning in demonic eyes
Fighting eternal battles which refuse to end

No greater love has any man
Than to offer his life for a friend
Some do not fully understand
The sacrifice made in the end
[Nancy L. Meek]

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction…The chain reaction of evil—hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars —must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.
[Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.]


I. Tolkien’s unaccountable popularity, and thus the charge that he appeals only to readers who desire to escape from reality. The contrary truth is that the Rings-epic is indeed an escape–‘from’ the prison of spiritual death and unprecedented evil, and thus an escape ‘into’ the freedom and joy of spiritual life and unprecedented good.

II. The perennial reality of death and the modern evil of mass death via coercive power

A. Tolkien’s vision of violence and death in both the pre- and post-Christian worlds

1. Where life is likened to the flight of a sparrow into one end of a mead-hall and out the other: from sheer darkness, briefly into warmth and light, then back into cold oblivion (the Venerable Bede), making death a seeming curse
2. Where all things are envisioned as declining from a prior and better world, so that a negative ‘entropy’ rules over everything, winding down to naught: Doom
3. Yet where death is meant to be a strange blessing, so that every exit from one’s door is a confrontation with ultimate reality, as in “The Road Goes Ever On”

B. Tolkien’s conviction that our fear and dread of death produce terrible evils

1. Hence the Ring ‘tempts’ because it grant limitless life (not limitless wisdom)
2. Thus making its possessors maniacally hungry for all other ‘material’ things
3. So that evil has no truly positive life, being always parasitic off the good, having always a shadow-existence figured most horribly in the Ringwraiths
4. Nor having any power to create or originate, only to ‘pervert’ the good
5. Nor forming any true fellowship, always leading to mutual ‘self-destruction’
6. And possessing the flat, ‘non-penetrating’ vision of Sauron, unable to imagine himself into any other world than his own all-devouring desire for power
7. Giving war against evil only a defensive, limited, and ‘non-retaliatory’ purpose
8. Yet making evil horribly ‘addictive’, breakable only by transcendent strength

III. The abiding life and good to be found in the heroism of the small and the merciful

A. Tolkien’s understanding of heroism as belonging not to the great and the strong so much as to the little and the weak—especially to the diminutive hobbits. For while prone to complacency, they can be trusted with large tasks because of their small ambitions, their modest satisfactions, their capacity for loyalty and trust

1. As revealed in their splendid humor, their refusal to be absorbed in introspective seriousness, but always laughing at themselves and keeping good cheer in the midst of horror
2. As evidenced in their learning not to desire adventure (which one undertakes gladly, often to escape boredom) but the ‘quest’ (to which one is called, often against one’s will, and which one embarks upon only with fear and trembling)
3. As demonstrated in ‘fellowship’, a community of nine companions who make no graceless oaths of total loyalty, but learn to trust and forgive each other
4. As figured in Gandalf, the wizard who leads and fights for and ‘rescues’ the Company, but who doesn’t make his friends immune from danger and death
5. As residing above all in the unheard-of willingness to ‘surrender’ coercive power, to die rather than to use it, even for the achievement of good ends

B. Tolkien’s Christian and non-classical emphasis on pity as the largest virtue

1. How Gandalf taught Frodo to spare the evil Gollum, in hope that he might yet be transformed, thus enabling the final success of the Quest
2. How Boromir the brave dies reconciled despite his betrayal of the Company
3. And thus how the Nine Walkers gain immense moral and religious maturity

C. Sam and Frodo’s conviction that they belong to a larger Story, to a Grand Narrative that will be complete only in the End, because Light and Hope are the final realities, giving their miniscule lives ultimate significance and value.  [Professor Ralph C. Wood]

When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.  [Jimi Hendrix (Yes, the rock star!)]

Led Zeppelin was a very successful rock group throughout the 1970’s, and JRR Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy is one of the most popular  fantasies ever. The published works of Led Zeppelin date to 1969, and Tolkien’s date back to 1937. So one may ask what connects these two elites? The answer is simple—Led Zeppelin’s lyrics.

– The Battle of Evermore (Shown below)
– Misty Mountain Hop
– Over the Hills and Far Away
– Ramble On
(FYI-“Stairway to Heaven” is not Tolkien-related)

“Queen of Light took her bow
And then she turned to go,
The Prince of Peace embraced the gloom
And walked the night alone.”

The Queen of Light is Eowyn, who bids Aragorn goodbye and then turns to join the Rohan army. The Prince of Peace is Aragorn, and he embraces the gloom of the Paths of the dead.

“Oh, dance in the dark of night,
Sing to the morn-ing light.
The dark Lord rides in force tonight
And time will tell us all.”

Obviously, either Sauron or the Leader of the Ringwraiths is the said dark Lord.

“Oh, throw down your plow and hoe,
Rest not to lock your homes.
Side by side we wait the might
Of the darkest of them all.”

At the start of the seige of Gondor, the workers on the fields flee to the Tower for protection. Then, the citizens watch and wait for the onslaught of Mordor to arrive.

“I hear the horses’ thunder
Down in the valley below,
I’m waiting for the angels of Avalon,
Waiting for the eastern glow.”

This is self-explanatory. Curiously, though, there is no mention of Avalon in any of Tolkien’s works.

“The apples of the valley hold
The seeds of happiness,
The ground is rich from tender care,
Repay, do not forget, no, no.
Oh, dance in the dark of night,
Sing to the morning light.

The apples turn to brown and black,
The tyrant’s face is red.

Oh the war is common cry,
Pick up you swords and fly.
The sky is filled with good and bad
That mortals never know.”

There are Ringwraiths swarming around Gondor, little of whom any of the men of Gondor know.

“Oh, well, the night is long
The beads of time pass slow,
Tired eyes on the sunrise,
Waiting for the eastern glow.”

Another self-explanatory line, speaking of the soldiers waiting for the blackness of Mordor to fall away.

“The pain of war cannot exceed
The woe of aftermath,
The drums will shake the castle wall,
The ringwraiths ride in black,
Ride on.”

The use of the term”ringwraith” is the concrete evidence of this song’s relation to Tolkien, since JRR Tolkien coined the particular word.

“Shoot straighter than before.
No comfort has the fire at night
That lights the face so cold.”

Gondor begins to fall behind some as the battle progresses, and they all know something dramatic must occur for their victory to take place.

“Oh dance in the dark of night,
Sing to the mornin’ light.
The magic runes are writ in gold
To bring the balance back.
Bring it back.”

There are two schools of thought on this line. Frodo’s Ring has magic runes, and when it is destroyed, the balance of power in the world is restored. Also, Merry’s sword has runes written on it, and his stabbing the Leader of the Ringwraiths restores the balance of power in the battle.

“At last the sun is shining,
The clouds of blue roll by,
With flames from the dragon of darkness
The sunlight blinds his eyes.”

The first half of this verse talks about how, when the battle is won, the sky clears again, as the blackness of Mordor again retreats to its homeland. The second half remains a mystery. It is most likely stating metaphorically that Sauron’s army must retreat as the sun rises again.


Day is ended, dim my eyes,
but journey long before me lies.
Farewell, friends! I hear the call.
The ship’s beside the stony wall.
Foam is white and waves are grey;
beyond the sunset leads my way.
Foam is salt, the wind is free;
I hear the rising of the Sea.

Farewell, friends! The sails are set,
the wind is east, the moorings fret.
Shadows long before me lie,
beneath the ever-bending sky,
but islands lie behind the Sun
that I shall raise ere all is done;
lands there are to west of West,
where night is quiet and sleep is rest.

Guided by the Lonely Star,
beyond the utmost harbour-bar,
I’ll find the heavens fair and free,
and beaches of the Starlit Sea.
Ship, my ship! I seek the West,
and fields and mountains ever blest.
Farewell to Middle-earth at last.
I see the Star above my mast!
[J. R. R. Tolkien]

Kites rise highest against the wind—not with it.  [Sir Winston Churchill]

Hope you enjoyed some of these insights—share them with your friends and colleagues—so we can have a larger ‘pool’ to receive from, and more to share with!

Also, remember to include your name as the “source,” if some of this wisdom is of your doing—I would like to give credit where credit is due!

“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet”  [Matthew 24:6].


Disclaimer: All the above jokes & inspirations are obtained from various sources and copyright are used when known. Other than our name and headers, we do not own the copyright to any of the materials sent to this list. We just want to spread the ministry of God’s love and cheerfulness throughout the world.

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