Bishop Alfred Reid Encourages Living the Sacrificial Life
On Monday, February 22, three days before the 2016 general election, retired Bishop of the Anglican Church Alfred Reid, while speaking at the 166th Jamaica Baptist Union (JBU) General Assembly, encouraged Baptist ministers of religion to embrace 'living the sacrificial life'. In this well-researched and well-presented paper, he reminded the ministers of religion that whenever they are tempted to complain about demands, including the unreasonable ones , they ought to remember that they were well aware of these demands when they decided to offer themselves for the Christian ministry.
Reid reminded the captivated audience that sacrifice is of the essence of all religions and not Christianity only. It is what defines a movement as religious. Sacrifice is as old as religion and predates Judaism and, naturally, Christianity. The idea of sacrifice can be traced to pagan roots. Reid speculated that the pagan origins of the concept of sacrifice could explain the ambivalence some prophets and psalmists of the Old Testament towards the sacrificial system.
This is illustrated in Psalm 51: 16-17, 'For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, You would not be pleased. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken and contrite heart. O God, you will not despise'. The same approach is taken by Jeremiah in his 'temple sermons' as well as by prophets like Amos and Micah.
In addition, the prophets, priests and psalmists of ancient Israel moved decisively into a new era in which God was seen as a personal God. God was perceived as a being who could love and be loved. This personal God intervenes in history and delivers his people out of bondage and, in response, there was a sacrifice of thanksgiving. This new understanding of God created a new priesthood and a new kind of sacrifice.
Reid was harsh on present-day charlatans and sincerely misguided people who operate a 'quasi-magical ministry' with claims to having supernatural power including the power to influence or even control divine power for personal use. He charged that present-day ministers fall into two categories. Some want to be as successful as these new power brokers, and even to compete with them. For this group, the call is not to a life of self-giving but to prosperity, not realising that these blessings are actually the fruits of genuine sacrifice.
The other group withdraws into 'dignified aloofness from such disreputable shenanigans' while not recognising that the ordinary Jamaican believes that these people have cared for themselves very well.
People felt challenged to commit to living the sacrificial life by voluntarily embracing a life of self-denial, which makes their lives and their gifts available to serve God's purposes in the world. The difficulty is to translate the commitment to reality and to challenge Baptists and Jamaicans to a sacrificial life. It is a call to give up that which we prized most for the sake of Christ. It is a charge to giving, serving, living by the grace of God in Christ and the enabling power of the Holy Spirit without holding back, without counting the cost, and without expecting anything in return.
Eight years ago, the JBU said that for 2016-18 the theme would be 'Living the Sacrificial Life'. Will this message resonate with Baptists and Jamaicans when people are dreaming of prosperity? Will this message be seen as bitter medicine or will it find fertile ground among Jamaicans?
Bishop Alfred Reid, by word and deed, is living the sacrificial life. Baptists need to spread the call to sacrificial living.
- Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.