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Sacrifice: book review

Date Tuesday, 3rd October 2023

Preached by Onahi Idikwu

The book falls to the floor as she drops to her knees, palms open and exhale ‘Yes Lord’. 

This was the posture I found myself adopting, either physically or in my heart, as I read Simon Guillebaud’s book Sacrifice.

If the thought of sacrifice causes your palms to sweat a bit, you are not alone. I reluctantly picked up this book at my mum’s recommendation, but I am glad I did. If you’ve ever viewed sacrifice as daunting or negative, I want to invite you to lean in as Guillebaud uses this small but brilliant book to challenge us to view sacrifice as a privilege. David Livingstone (19th century missionary) highlights this when he says, ‘If a commission by an earthly king is considered an honour, how can a commission by a heavenly king be considered a sacrifice?’. What a privilege it is that God would entrust His gospel to us.

The author bases the book around Romans 12:1 which says ‘Therefore, I urge you, brothers, and sisters, in view’s God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God- this is your true and proper worship’. Guillebaud is clear that living sacrificially is not a superficially heroic or unattainable life for a select few but rather a simple recognition of who God is and living life in that reality.

In this less than 50-page book, the author also uses incredible true-life stories to portray how biblical sacrifice is one that is grace-full, urgent, voluntary, holy, and logical. Paul, who is the author of Romans, knew the beauty of God’s grace first-hand. His life changed from one that was suffocating and ritualistic, centred on external performance to a life that was liberating and relational, centred on the inward reality of the redeeming work of Christ. Therefore, Guillebaud reminds us that sacrifice springs from grace. It is because of God’s mercies that we can even offer back to Him what He has first given us.

One of my favourite aspects of this book is the chapter on urgent sacrifice, where we travel with Guillebaud to the Congolese borders, the New Hebrides islands, back in time to hostile Korea and witness remarkable bravery as people risk it all for the gospel. He shares the story of Robert J. Thomas which I found deeply impactful. In 1866 Robert sailed from US to Pyongyang, feeling called by God to take the good news to Korea. As the ship was approaching the riverbank it was set on fire by the Koreans and men trying to escape the ship were killed on the bank. Robert threw all the Bibles he had brought to those on the bank and begged a soldier to receive his last Bible before he was killed by that soldier. Some of the Bibles were rescued and pages were used as wallpaper in people’s homes. A short while after, they were gripped with curiosity and began reading the scriptures and became Christians despite the huge personal cost that was involved! ‘One young man’s life lived and laid down with such urgency, had led to the expansion of God’s fledgling kingdom in that land.’ God continues to call us today, having entrusted us with His gospel, it might be to a foreign land; but it could also be that next-door neighbour or work colleague.  Who might we be called to share the gospel with?

Guillebaud explores many ways we can live out this posture of offering our lives to God in how we treat our work and how we live more generally as those consecrated to God. Romans 12:2 speaks of God’s will being good, pleasing, and perfect. If we truly believe that our Father’s will is all these things, then sacrifice becomes wonderful, it’s giving in loving honour to God, the very best we have.

I hope this short reflection has inspired you to pick up this book and read it for yourself. May God cause us to be those who willingly and joyfully give all to Him for His glory!