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Seven-Day Practical Faith Blog: Sacrificing for Others

Matthew 27:54

The Deputy Commander of Auschwitz was outraged. Three prisoners had escaped the Nazi concentration camp; someone had to pay. The Nazi guards randomly selected ten male prisoners to be starved to death in an underground bunker.

One doomed man, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out, “My wife! My children!” Another man stepped forward, volunteering to take his place. Father Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish priest, joined the other nine, freeing Gajowniczek, who survived Auschwitz and lived to tell the story.

Imprisoned because he had hidden hundreds of Jews in his church, Kolbe experienced hardship in Auschwitz; his work party leader had singled out the priest for the hardest labor. “Bloody Krott” finally beat Kolbe to the point of death; fellow inmates secretly hid Kolbe in the prison until he recovered.

In the bunker, Kolbe led the starving men in prayers and singing until they were too weak to do so. Whenever the guards would look in, they found Kolbe standing or kneeling placidly in the center of the room. After two weeks, Kolbe and the remaining prisoners were executed by lethal injection. Kolbe calmly lifted his arm to accept his dose.

One of the SS guards was heard to say, "This priest is really a great man. We have never seen anyone like him."

That comment reminds me on this Good Friday of a similar proclamation in Matthew 27:54 from those supervising Jesus’s crucifixion:

When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

Certainly the saved prisoner, Gajowniczek, was grateful for Kolbe's sacrifice. His life would've been transformed by the event. Jesus did the same for each of us, allowing us to escape our sin and the punishment of spiritual death. Are we as grateful as Gajowniczek? Are our lives transformed by Jesus's willingness to give himself up for us?

Father Maximilian, now venerated as a saint, emulated his Savior in accepting the punishment of another. It makes me wonder what sacrifices I am willing to make. Perhaps they are not as dramatic nor as impactful. Perhaps it means sacrificing a Saturday morning to work at a food bank. Perhaps it means sacrificing money or personal comfort for whatever task the Lord assigns me. Once in my past, it meant sacrificing a promising career in a particular field so I could spend more time raising my children.

This Good Friday, we're prompted to consider again the impact of Christ's loving sacrifice and what sacrifices we're willing to make, inspired by faithful disciples like Saint Maximilian Kolbe.

Keon Lindsey interviewed me for his "Authors to Meet" series, covering my latest books and my writing process. This is a print interview found at and takes three minutes to read. Please check it out as well as Keon's books on the site, including his latest devotional book, "Have You Heard from God Lately?"

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