I can remember reading The Hiding Place (the story of Corrie ten Boom, a woman who risked her life to save Jews during World War II) and desperately praying that I would have Corrie’s courage and self-sacrifice when I’m eventually confronted with a time that requires it.
How does one become such a person? Jonathan Parnell has some thoughts about this on the Desiring God Blog, where he writes about Jon Meis, a young man who risked his life to save his fellow students during the recent shooting at Seattle Pacific University:
Who, then, are the ones like Jon Meis—a student considered a quiet and selfless guy by fellow classmates? What kind of person could actually be willing to step up in the face of danger? The answer may be getting clearer.
The person who’d be willing to put the good of others before himself in the event of great loss is the one who puts the good of others before himself in the hundred events of little losses everyday. “We are always becoming,” as Joe Rigney puts it, “who we will be” (Live Like a Narnian, 52). “Right this minute, we are headed somewhere, and sooner or later, we are bound to end up there” (52).
The person of great sacrifice, therefore, must be the person of little sacrifices—the person who has discovered that the life of sacrificial love is the life of greatest joy. The response of sacrificial love in the midst of panic is the end of a trajectory that gets played out as sacrificial love in the midst of normalcy....
The big moment of courageous action doesn’t occur in a vacuum, but has behind it tiny moments of simple sacrifice that have been trending that direction all along. In other words, if we can’t wash dishes and change diapers, we shouldn’t kid ourselves with the idea that we’d step in front of a bullet. If we are stingy with our time and money toward those in need, we’ll be stingy with our lives when a gun gets pulled on innocent people.
Stories like Jon’s should make us pause and ask whether we’d respond like he did. But the question isn’t what we’d do in a particular situation; it’s about what we’re doing now.
We won’t truly know who we’ve become until we’ve been tested. Until then, pray the Holy Spirit enables us to give up our lives in the everyday moments. “The person of great sacrifice must be the person of little sacrifices.” Now is the time to practice dying by His power, looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.
[W]hoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:43–45).