I stood on a soapbox in high school English class.
Speaking from a raised platform or soapbox originates at Hyde Park in London where Speaker’s Corner was established in 1872 to allow public debates on various topics. Our teacher dedicated some time each week for a “soapbox session.”
From my soapbox I posed a question. Were we young adults prepared to give up our lives for our friends?
School shootings had recently occurred where some young men and women had shown great heroism in the face of peril and tragedy. It was a heavy subject for a soapbox—met with surprise, affirmation, disbelief and rejection. But Christians in particular need to consider this subject.
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13 John 15:13Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
American King James Version×).
Outlined by Jesus, this biblical principle has been honorably upheld in history—usually during the danger and duress of war. Comrades have protected each other in the upheaval of battle, and many have given their lives so that friends or family members could live.
I came to understand a wider application. If you give your life up for a friend, you can only do it once. But over the course of a lifetime you can give up pieces of your life to friends in various ways—through long-term service, rather than one moment of supreme sacrifice.
What to give
Serving others is self-sacrifice. Modern culture tends to just throw money, not service, at a need. This idea of service might be easier to understand in a barter society. That’s where people trade goods and services directly without using the middleman of money.
Writer-philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson touched on this idea in his essay called “Gifts.” He wrote about how to choose a present to give to another person, thus illustrating the concept of sacrifice:
“The only gift is a portion of thyself. Thou must bleed for me. Therefore the poet brings his poem; the shepherd, his lamb; the farmer, corn; the miner, a gem; the sailor, coral and shells; the painter, his picture; the girl, a handkerchief of her own sewing. This is right and pleasing, for it restores society in so far to the primary basis, when a man’s biography is conveyed in his gift, and every man’s wealth is an index of his merit.”
The gift of time
If we can’t give gems, shells, lambs or corn—we can give time, thought and energy. We can help out with a project, clean something up or even enjoy a cup of coffee or tea together. We can write a letter of encouragement, give a quick phone call or pray for God to bless our friends.
The gift of time crosses generations. We all have time to sacrifice for our elders, even as they have sacrificed for us as parents, grandparents, teachers and leaders. Lend a hand, write a note or e-mail, call or visit and listen to their lifetime lessons. It is important that we who are younger take the time to give those who are older the opportunity to give back in response.
True loving service to others follows a standard. Check out “A Royal Law of Love.”
Just as Jesus did, incorporate the spirit of sacrifice into your routine each day and discover the positive impact it will have on you and those for whom you lay down your life. It’s your “gift” to give. VT