A Sacrifice of Praise

And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned,

but do not have love, it profits me nothing. (1 Corinthians 13.3)


Living in a world of disease, famine, persecution, and war, it’s often hard to comprehend the depth of misery. Complicating our perception of the suffering is a spate of ‘artificial problems,’ talking heads on network news droning on about ‘climate change’ and ‘gender pronouns,’ while ignoring millions around the world living with the constant ache of grief and oppression. Too many Americans have self-inflicted misery, while those in other countries experience the real thing.

A deeply troubling story in the news last month illustrates the first problem. A member of the U.S. Air Force died after setting himself on fire outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. He recorded himself saying that he would “no longer be complicit in genocide,” then as his body burned, yelled “Free Palestine.” At a vigil in his memory, protesters held signs saying “genocide” and “Free Palestine.” One responder even cited Jesus’ words, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15.13).

What would cause well-meaning people to be so deluded that they think seeking to defeat terrorists who rape women, burn babies, and hack civilians to death is “genocide”? Why would they cry “Free Palestine” against the Israeli army, while the Israeli army is trying to free Palestinians from the tyrannical rule of Islamic terrorist organizations? Who thinks Jesus would call those who support terrorists ‘loving’?

This is subjective, humanistic morality. It is ‘amoral blindness’ the prophet Isaiah spoke of before God exiled Israel. Listen to these words from Isaiah 5: Therefore My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge (13); Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes And clever in their own sight! (20-21)…For they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts And despised the word of the Holy One of Israel (24b).

We have constructed our own idea of morality, ‘called evil good and good evil,’ and now we can’t tell the two apart. The sad fruit of this ‘vacuum of truth’ last week was a young man thinking he was accomplishing good by sacrificing his life in support of evil. What’s missing here?

Ironically, this confusion – and this act – was addressed in 1 Corinthians 13.3: …if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. There is no “love” in supporting evil. Just a few verses later we read that love “does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth” (6). When people start to believe lies, and ‘rejoice in unrighteousness,’ love is gone. Again, scripture is straightforward and clear:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 John 4.7-8)

Meanwhile, another deeply troubling (and ongoing) tragedy a world away from America is ignored by the news. Islamic jihadist terrorists are murdering Christians in Nigeria. 8000 in the last year alone. In the recent Christmas holidays, they killed 140. In the last two decades, at least 62,000. This is a ‘silent genocide’ of Christians. The victims are martyrs for Christ, standing for truth in the face of evil men. They have sacrificed their lives with love for God and for their fellow man. (Picture at right is of a burial service.)

In Hebrews 13.15 we read, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” A ‘sacrifice of praise.’ We don’t often link ‘sacrifice’ and ‘praise’, but in the spiritual domain, they go together. Living in a morally upside-down world, openly professing Christians often face sacrifices – the Christians in Nigeria are already paying a heavy price.

To praise God in hard times is a sacrifice – one which God sees, and one which bears fruit for Him. In a world shrouded in increasing darkness, ‘let your light shine’! Hebrews 13.5 exhorts us to “continually” do this. Praise Him for who He is (loving, holy, eternal). Praise Him for what He’s done (forgiveness of sin, eternal life). And praise Him continually, even when it costs you something. Let your life be a ‘sacrifice of praise’!