Pastor's Corner

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Eric Liddell and Sacrifice


Eric Henry Liddell (16 January 1902 – 21 February 1945) was a Scottish athlete, rugby union international player, and a Christian missionary. Eric had delayed heading to the mission field after being encouraged to compete in various athletic competitions by family and friends. These races won “the Flying Scotsman” as he was known, entrance into the Olympics as a competitor. But while on the way to the Olympics, a problem arose when Eric learned the race he was to run was on a Sunday. Liddell being a strict man concerning what he believed to be the Sabbath, refused to run. This was unheard of for an athlete to refuse to run in a race he had prepared for most of his life, but Eric was more concerned with what he believed to be right before God than competing in the Olympics.

After refusing to run in the heats on a Sunday at his preferred distance, the men's 100 metres, Liddell was allowed to compete in the men's 400 metres instead at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris. Though it was longer than his preferred distance, he won the gold medal. Eric was prepared to sacrifice this honor for his faith, which shocked many people, even in an age when faith meant much more to English and American culture than it does today.

Eric returned to the mission field in China in 1925 to serve as a missionary teacher. Aside from two furloughs in Scotland, he remained in China until his death in 1945 in a Japanese civilian internment camp. Liddell's Olympic training and racing, and the religious convictions that influenced him, are depicted in the Oscar-winning film “Chariots of Fire.” (1981)

2 Corinthians 5:14 “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”

Sacrificial living is not a popular subject, and not one you are likely to hear about in a lot of churches anymore. In a self-absorbed generation, the idea of living sacrificially is like a blinding light in a dark room. But this is exactly why a life lived sacrificially is so powerful, it runs contrary to the culture and the manner of life produced by our sensual desires. Eric Liddell lived like this. Eric, although a notable runner who won a gold medal, he left a different legacy behind. He did not live the life of a celebrity athlete, he won the gold medal, celebrated with family and friends, and then left for the mission field in China where he died. History remembers him for his faith and his personal convictions regarding that faith, even more than the gold medal.

Like the apostle Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians; when we conclude in our hearts Christ died for us and it changes us, we also conclude our lives are meant to be lived for the One who died for us. The Weight of Glory is not found in living for ourselves, it is found in living for Christ who died and rose again for us. Be a blinding light this week.

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