Human Sacrifice? Did I hear him right?
My mind was a blur as I tried to wrap my mind around what this small, quiet man was saying as the three of us sat around the dining room table in the comfort of our own "civilized" surroundings. Does that really happen in this day and age? The story he was sharing with us seemed unbelievable to us but was something he was all too familiar with.
The man was telling us all about the ministry that he helps to oversee in India, Nepal, and Bhutan, sharing the gospel of Christ with the vast numbers of people who live there, among their thousands of tribes, villages and languages. The story he told us was chilling but spoke of the incredible deception a particular tribe is lost in while desperately trying to appease the gods they serve.
This particular tribe of about a million people, are divided up into several different villages yet have a large enough presence that their uncommon practice of human sacrifice is not questioned or dealt with. It is simply accepted as a way for them to worship just one of the thousands of gods that the Hindu people serve.
In this particular tribe, the belief is that each spring their gods need to be appeased and honored by offering human blood to be poured out onto their farmland in order to have a successful growing season. In order to do this, lots are cast and the loser is required to kidnap someone during a certain period of time to be the sacrifice they all are depending on. If however, at the end of the time period, the person does not capture the person who will be sacrificed, one of their own children will be the one killed.
While I heard this story, my mind was racing with so many thoughts and emotions. First of all, I couldn't imagine the horror of seeing that your lot had come up short and now you would have to do the unthinkable. Also, how terrifying it would be to live in the village during this time each spring, knowing that at any moment, you could be captured in order to be killed. If we try to put it in our own context, in our own community, the whole idea is mind boggling.
The great part of this story is this: the reason he told it to us in the first place was because he had a picture of a man worshiping God in one of the churches their ministry had built.
He pointed out that he was one such man, one who drew the short straw. It made my heart rejoice to see that instead of being trapped in a religion that worshipped a god which didn't even exist and doing unspeakable things to serve that god, He now knew the truth.
This man now knows the One True God and understands that Jesus' blood was shed once and for all in order to pay the debt that was owed. He no longer had to be a part of shedding blood on his own in order to try to make things right. It's already been done. That truth is so powerful and speaks to this man maybe even like we ourselves will never really understand. And what was the man's response? To glorify and praise this God who brought him such freedom.
I'm finally realizing that this one thing is what our lives are all about and what living the Christian life is centered around.
So often, we tend to focus on what God can do for us, give to us, and what following Christ offers to us. All these things are great. God comforts, protects, heals, helps, provides for, and forgives us for sure and I am so thankful that He does. Through Christ and His willingness to die for us, He gives us eternal life, gives us hope, and makes it possible to have joy and peace. Without those things we would be truly lost.
But...focusing on all the things that serving God and following after Jesus does for us, I'm beginning to wonder if it doesn't make us take God for granted. Just a little. Maybe it's just me, but I can tend to be serious about my Christian walk, until I'm challenged with something coming into my life that I see as unfair, or unpleasant, or if I feel like I'm being asked to give a little more than what I'm comfortable with.
When I read in scripture about how great God is and how He deserves all of our glory, I'm humbled by the question if that's really my honest motivation.
Am I seeking God with all my heart because He deserves my whole heart, or do I want what He will do for me if I seek Him in this way? It's all hard to sort out but I think it's good for us to be challenged by these motives as we mature in our faith.
I'm sure that the man who left the brutality of serving a false god was first drawn to the Lord because the truth brought him freedom and security of eternal life. How beautiful that redeeming process is. But then his hunger to glorify the name of God has had to take over. For this man, simply praising God in a Christian church costs him a lot. It costs him his safety, his reputation, his social standing, his ability to make a living, and often his own family. Yes he reaps all the benefits of knowing God and having a real relationship with Him, but there is also a heavy price to be paid...but it's worth it. It's worth everything he may endure just be able to praise the God who is actually worthy of his praise.
What a wonderful testimony this man has been to me. I want to have that same hunger to simply praise God above any other thing, no matter what the cost, even if all blessings were to cease.
Psalm 8 is a great reminder:
O Lord, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth,
Who have set Your glory above the heavens!
Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have ordained strength,
Because of Your enemies,
That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
All sheep and oxen—
Even the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air,
And the fish of the sea
That pass through the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth!