Steve Lunetta | Sharing the Unlikely Gift of Christmas

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

— Jim Eliot, Missionary

How often do we think of giving at Christmas? Oh, sure, we look at the bills in January and swear to ourselves that we will never spend this much again. We tend to monetize giving and make it a simple banking transaction.

But, what if the thing that we gave was far more precious than money? What if we had such a powerful belief and message that we would be willing to give up all for it?

Recently, we saw such an example of this. John Allen Chau, an American Christian missionary, felt led to approach an “unreached” people group called the Sentinelese on the Bay of Bengal’s North Sentinel Island, which is right off the coast of Thailand but it’s owned by India.

Laws passed back in 1956 forbid anyone from traveling to or approaching the island. The Indian Navy actually patrols the waters to enforce this isolation.

In 2006, two fishermen were killed when they inadvertently came in contact with the island natives. Around Nov. 19 of this year, driven by his desire to share his faith, John Chau suffered a similar fate.

News organizations such as CNN were puzzled by what could have motivated Chau to act as he did. Scratching their talking heads, most commentators seem blinded by the obvious answer: faith.

Today’s media seems incapable of understanding such motivation.

Faith that drives one to sacrifice instead of a faith that drives one to strap on explosives and commit a heinous act. Faith rooted in love and not hatred.

In 1956, the world witnessed a similar faith — ironically, which may have resulted in the Indian laws protecting Sentinel Island. Jim Eliot, a Christian missionary, had gone with a team of four others to Ecuador to contact an unreached people group called the Waodoni.

Similar to the Sentinelese, the Waodoni were known as dangerous and violent.

Eliot felt that his core Christian beliefs were a fantastic gift that were worth sharing with all —  even a dangerous tribal group from Ecuador. Eternal life, a gift that cannot be taken, was worth far more than anything that could be easily taken: money, fame, family and life.

At the age of 28, Eliot captured his thinking in a timeless quotation: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Those words have stuck with me since they so clearly communicate the eternal concept of the Christian faith.

On Jan. 8, 1956, the Waodoni killed Jim Eliot and his four companions. All for trying to share a gift with a people whom they had never met.

How often do we hear of such a thing? Yes, we often hear of faiths that drive followers to extremes that result in the deaths of numerous others. But the message of Chau and Eliot is something far different.

This message is not intended to destroy, subjugate, enslave, or dominate. It’s a message that has reconciliation and restoration at its core. No wonder many look at Christians and simply cannot fathom what they see.

Why would anyone want to listen to such a message? Does it subvert our enemies or gain us political power? Can we sell it or gain some economic advantage? Can we seize large swaths of land or dominate the oceans with it?

Frankly, it’s fairly useless. This message is laughable on its face.

That an omnipotent, all-powerful, and perfect God would send His Son to Earth, to be born in a manger, as a helpless baby, surrounded by livestock and some really foul-smelling shepherds, for the forgiveness of our sins, with the eventual outcome being death on a cross and eternal life for you and me. Ludicrous.

Yet, that is what He did. Christmas is our reminder of the powerful gift of love given to us by our God.

You can think that Chau and Eliot died as fools. However, I believe that they died in an attempt to share this marvelous gift, one that is available to all of us, and can never be taken away.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Merry Christmas.

Steve Lunetta is a resident of Santa Clarita and stands in awe of the magnificent Gift of Christmas. He can be reached at [email protected]

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