Monday, January 30, 2017
I get the question often ‘why do you do this’? People from home ask why I would leave a good job and comfortable life in the US to pay money to work and live in a cramped cabin on a ship with 400 other people. People from this country ask me why I would give up my life at home to travel across the world to provide surgeries for people I don’t even know and who could never repay.
This question would probably have a different answer for every person serving with Mercy Ships. Some people would say they serve to help others and make a difference in the world. Others would say they love to travel and see the world. And maybe others would say it makes them feel better about themselves or it’s their duty to help the poor. The easy and quick answer I generally tell people is that God has shown me throughout my life the need for physical and spiritual healing that exists in the world and once you see the need, it’s impossible to ignore. The deeper answer is a little more complicated…
As I was reading my devotional this morning, I began to think about this in a whole new way. The verse today was Ephesians 5:2 which says, “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a slain offering and sacrifice to God, a sweet fragrance”. I’d imagine you are similar to me in that when you think about Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, you consider it a cruel punishment that would cause pain to His Father to watch. None of us want to imagine watching our own child go through that kind of suffering. But as the author said in this devotional, have you ever noticed the next phrase “a sweet fragrance”? Not only was the cross an offering and sacrifice, it was a sweet fragrance to God! I can’t say it any better with my own words so I’m just going to quote this next part…”Such is the incredible depth of God’s love for us that he would count the atrocities committed against his Son as a sweet fragrance. Such is the enormity of God’s desire for restored relationship with us that he would look upon the death of his Son with favorable remembrance.” (Craig Denison)
The point of the study was to remind Christians that God loved us enough to sacrifice His son and He considers us worthy of relationship with Him, whatever the cost. But I took a different message away from these lines. Don’t read into this too much; I never want to compare what I am doing to the huge sacrifice of Jesus. But it did make think of a new answer to the question of “Why”. Why would you ‘give your life as an offering’ and ‘sacrifice so much’? The answer: because I want my life to be a sweet fragrance to God.
God longs for a relationship with the people of Benin as much as He longs for a relationship with the people of the US and Canada and the UK and China. He already gave His son to give them eternal life, but He cares about their present life as well. And He has chosen to use this motley crew of volunteers from around the world to give them a better, longer, more productive life through the free surgeries, medical care, and education we provide. Along the way, the hope is that they will also feel the love of Jesus and gain a closer relationship with the Father through what they see and experience here.
If my identity is truly based in the depth of God’s love for me, it’s all I can do to give my life back to God as a ‘sweet fragrance’ – in whatever way He wants to use it, no matter what the sacrifice.