Devotion | Part 2 – Eric Liddell
Isaiah 61:1 “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.”
“Proclaim liberty to the captives”
The subtle sensation of a solitary sweat bead slipping down his temple broke his moment of concentration. It had been difficult to pray this morning. The many needs of the teenagers at the mission school where he taught weighed heavily on him.
Angry shouting tugged harder at his failing focus. What could possibly be stirring up so much emotion, so much hatred? Had someone stolen something and been caught? Had a family member been dishonored and vengeance taken? It must be a matter of grave consequence. Eric hurried to inspect, only to discover the more obvious explanation: A fight during a hockey match. Nothing like sports to bring out the best and the worst in teen boys.
A simple solution would be to cancel future matches—teach them a lesson through punishment. Eric was not naive; he knew that would only drive the arguers back to their rooms. They were captive to their own sinful passions. Instead, they needed a model. Eric, one of the most competitive athletes of his era, would give them that. He would show them how to be fiercely competitive and fiercely charitable at the same time. Tomorrow, he would referee their next hockey match. In doing so he would show them another lesson since tomorrow was Sunday.
Wait a second… Do you mean the guy who wouldn’t run on Sunday was going to referee? Had he given up his commitment to holding the Sabbath as sacred? All throughout his time in the prison camp, Eric reserved the Sabbath for connecting with God. He hadn’t given up on that, but now he felt something more important was at stake.
Joyce Stranks, who was a seventeen-year-old fellow internee, said that Eric, “…came to the feeling that a need existed, [and] it was the Christlike thing to do to let them play with the equipment and to be with them… Because it was more Christlike to do it than to [follow] the letter of the law and let them run amok by themselves. And for me that was very interesting because it was the one thing, of course, everyone remembers about Eric [that he would not run on Sunday because the Sabbath was the Lord’s Day]” (Metaxas, 82).
Liddell saw an opportunity to minister and found it to be more important than his self-imposed Sabbath restrictions. Nowhere does the Bible say, “thou shalt not run or referee on the Sabbath.” He had the courage to put aside his preferences in order to love and serve others in a time of need. In so doing he brought a moment of joy in a painful time and brought freedom from anger and sin to these boys
Sometimes serving others requires putting aside our own desires and preferences. Is there a way you’ve seen someone around you do that recently?
Jesus, thank you for giving us the ability to love others and to think not only of our own needs and desires. Though none of us loves perfectly, help us to have the wisdom to know when to set aside things that are important to us for the opportunity to minister to others. Help us to depend on you to free us from the sin and anger that easily entangles us and keeps us from loving others well.