There are Times to Give the Last Bow
Image from istock.com
On mission team in South Korea
I reflect upon when I was a missionary in the eastern seaboard city of Kangnung, South Korea. I taught English as a second language from primary to adult students at The International English School. I was part of a group of missionary teachers from the United States and Canada. When we weren’t teaching, on a rotational schedule we preached and led worship at the local Baptist church. We also did community outreach work. We learned about the way Koreans live. We did our best to respect that. That’s an important thing to know when you serve as a missionary. We didn’t want to do anything to offend the Korean people we were interacting with.
I was speaking to the school secretary, Lisa. She was a delightful young woman to work with. She was the backbone of the school. Lisa helped the mission team with how to connect with the students. She was a master at solving any issues that came up. Often, it was a matter of miscommunication. Here is one such story.
I share one of my cultural lessons.
Save last bow for someone else
A Korean man is talking with Lisa.
I know it’s respectful to bow when you meet a Korean.
I show honour to the Korean gentleman by bowing. I smile at him.
He smiles. He bows.
I thought to myself, “What do I do now?”
I bow again.
The Korean gentleman’s smile widens. He bows.
What’s the proper thing to do now?
Do I stop bowing or bow? I don’t want to make a cultural blunder.
I smile back as I bow.
He appears to be extremely pleased by what I’m doing. Each time his smile is more expressive as he returns my bows.
This goes on for several minutes.
I’m starting to feel like one of those plastic birds that bobs down and up into an artificial glass of water. Each time you start it with one of your fingers it bobs down and up.
Each time the bird goes down it gets slower until it stops.
My back is getting sore from bowing multiple times. I’m slowing down like that bird.
How long can I keep this up?
Lisa tries hard not to show me disrespect by laughing. She covers her mouth, so I can’t see her laugh..
She laughs softly..
She motions with her other hand for me to speak with her.
Lisa says in almost a whisper, “Kevin, you show a Korean honour when you give that person the last bow.” She speaks in Korean to the gentleman, so he understands my intentions are honourable.
I thank Lisa for her help.
I turn back to the man.
I bow. I smile slightly.
The Korean gentleman gives me an ear-to-ear grin as he bows.
I stop bowing.
I’m glad that’s over!
I breathe a sigh of relief.
Lisa stopped me from making a major cultural faux pas.
Thank you, Lisa, for teaching me this important life lesson. There are times you give another person the last bow.
Christ’s mission dying on the cross
Christ obeyed His Father. Jesus took His humanity to the cross with all the suffering that involved. He accepted His mission of dying for us on the cross. Jesus died so we would live. We would no longer be a slave to sin, but would be freed from it. (Romans 6:6-7). He bowed to His Father’s will.
Scripture says, ‘And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! “ (Philippians 2:8, NIV)
Christ gave God the last bow. He didn’t come down from the cross. He allowed His humanity to be shown. I feel a minute amount of abandonment by His Father as I read, “At midday darkness spread over the whole countryside and lasted until three o’clock in the afternoon, and at three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Mark 15:33-34, J.B. Phillips New Testament).
Imagine how if for some reason you were on that cross instead of Jesus. At the very moment you need your Father, He allows you to feel He has abandoned you.
Would you allow your Father the last bow by being willing to die for the ones responsible for you being crucified?
Many might scoff at such an illustration. We aren’t divine. We’re human-beings. But just think what you would say to God if He asked you to die for people you loathe.
Sacrificial love during Holocaust
During the Holocaust of World War II there were priests, rabbis, people we have never met, who took the place of others, so those people wouldn’t be killed that day. Maybe they would be executed later that day, tomorrow, the next day or month. Some of them would live through those horrifying death camps because someone gave up their life for that person.
There is the true story of a superior officer who demanded a junior officer select five Jewish people at random for execution. The junior officer shot four of them. When he was about to shoot the fifth person a priest who wasn’t among those to be killed steeped forward. He said to the officer, “I know this man. He has a family. Choose me instead.” The officer said, “Makes no difference to me”.He aimed his pistol at the man’s head. Bang. The priest was dead. The man survived being in a concentration camp.
There were many major concentration camps and sub-camps of the main ones. As you read the staggering list of them consider these facts: “Between 1933 and 1945 Nazi Germany and its allies established more than 44,000 camps and other incarceration sites (including ghettos). The perpetrators used these sites for a number of purposes, including forced labor, detention of people thought to be enemies of the state, and for mass murder.” 1
o be enemies of the state, and for mass murder.
Christ doesn’t free Himself from cross
Jesus had the divine power to remove Himself from the cross, but He didn’t use it. That would have been contrary to the will of His Father.
Jesus thought of others before Himself There is that touching moment when Jesus writhing in pain makes sure his mother, Mary, will be looked after. Biblical scholars suggest that this was a cultural expectation, but I believe it was far more than that. Mary had looked after Jesus from when He was an infant. He loved her deeply. Whether the disciple being referred to who is most likely, John or a beloved disciple, how many of us would think of the welfare of our mothers? I hope I would, but we would only know what we would do when confronted with the situation.
Scenes of Christ’s love
Feel the love of a son for his mother as you read this Scripture.
“So when Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing there, he said to his mother, “Woman, look, here is your son! He then said to his disciple, “Look, here is your mother!” From that very time the disciple took her into his own home.” (John 19:26-27, New English Translation)
Jesus gave those who were guilty of Him hanging on that cross and us forgiveness. He appealed to His Father to forgive all of us. I like the power in the words from The Message that paint this scene.
“Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing.”
Dividing up his clothes, they threw dice for them. The people stood there staring at Jesus, and the ringleaders made faces, taunting, “He saved others. Let’s see him save himself! The Messiah of God—ha! The Chosen—ha!”(Luke 23:34-35)
If we were insulted for believing something to be true about ourselves, would we respond with words of forgiveness? Wouldn’t any of us in the midst of agonizing pain judge and condemn those who ridiculed us?
Here is another scene of forgiveness from the cross.
“Even in His agony, Jesus’ concern was for the forgiveness of those who counted themselves among His enemies. He asked the Father to forgive the thieves on the cross who jeered at Him. He asked the Father to forgive the Roman soldiers who had mocked Him, spit on Him, beat Him, yanked out His beard, whipped Him, put a crown of thorns on His head, and nailed Him to the cross. Jesus asked forgiveness for the angry mob that had mocked Him and called for His crucifixion (Mark 15:29–30).” 3
With each nail driven into His hands and feet, He bled more. Each drop He shed was for us that we would no longer live in darkness. In the brutality of all that was done to Christ, there is this important lesson. Christ showed His humility by bowing down to death, so that we would have life.
When you call out to God to be saved from your sins He will hear you. You repent. That means you turn away from the way you have been living to God. He becomes the main focus of how you live.
Question to think about
That day I gave the Korean gentleman the last bow, I learned it shows humbleness by doing so. I leave you with this question. If God asked you to give someone you are having conflict with the last bow would you do it? The temptation would be to insist you are right when you may be wrong.
Christ knew that His suffering was unjust. The insults hurled at Him were intended to be humiliating. Jesus could have retaliated after every attack on His character, each psychological blow to His dignity Scripture says He kept trusting God would lead Him through this hellish experience.
“and while being abusively insulted, He did not insult in return; while suffering, He did not threaten, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” (I Pet. 2:21, NASB)
Jesus emotionally abused by the verbal insults
He calls himself king of the Jews. He’s no king. He’s merely a man. They put the sign INRI on the cross above His head.
Pontius Pilate may have intended it to be a mocking of Jesus. The Jews wanted the inscription to read, “He said He was the king of the Jews.” Listen to the irony in that from the Bible Teacher on you tube. The explanation of INRI is made easy to nderstand.
Humbleness key to being servant
Though you will be insulted, ridiculed, and rejected like Christ, follow His example by living your life as a humble servant.
Be willing to give others the final bow.
Give God sovereignty over your life
That’s a tough one for many to do. Many want to be the Captains of their destiny. They think they know how best to live their lives. They don’t need God. But in this time when CoVid remains an issue in our world, isn’t it time to ask ourselves serious questions about the kind of life we are living? Isn’t it time to value the gift of love of family, friends, and that stranger’s eyes that look at you. That person you never struck up a conversation with tugs at your heart. That soul is searching for something more to their life like you. Those of you who believe in God, don’t you want a deeper relationship with Him?
Perhaps, there are those who refuse to give God the last bow and say, “Here I am, Lord. I’m sorry for all the things I’ve done wrong. I ask Your forgiveness for all the people I hurt with my words or my fists. Make me into the person You want me to be. I give you total control over my life. I’m a sinner. I ask Jesus into my heart. Amen.”
Speak from your heart
The words don’t require eloquence. Just ask God for His help. Maybe no words will come right away God hears even in the silence the thoughts you are thinking in your mind. The cry of the Psalmist, David, could be yours.
“Give ear to my words, O Lord,
Consider my groaning.
Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God,
For to You I pray.
In the morning, O Lord, You will hear my voice;
In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.” (Psalm 5:1-3, NASB)
Our Father will hear you when words are too difficult to speak. He heard, David, every time he called out for the Lord to help him.
Give our Lord the last bow. When you do that you show how much you need His love. It tells Him that you’re willing to be taught.
Admitting you’ve sinned but still speaking out against wrong
Admitting you’ve wronged an individual is different from when you or someone you care about is treated with injustice. When a wrong is committed such as if you are discriminated against for your race, colour of your skin or for your beliefs, first try to work it out. But if you can’t, stand firm in your convictions.
You have the right to stand up against any kind of injustice done to you, those you love, and tthe stranger.
Here’s a quote to ponder. “Being able to admit you’re wrong is important, but so is standing up for yourself when you’re right.” — Suzy Kassem
Will you give God the last bow by asking Him into your life?
If you are a believer, will you let more of God, more of Christ into your life?
Will you give Jesus the last bow by asking Him to be the Lord of every area of your life?
Path of love is hard
You can learn much from giving God, Christ and others the last bow.
It won’t always be easy. There may be times you grit your teeth as you do it, but that could be the path of obedience God requires of you.
There are many times what God expects from us is tough to do. As my wife, Karen says, “If it was easy anyone could do it. Loving those who irritate you can only be done with God’s help. Part of you may shake your fist at God and say, “You’re asking too much of me to not only forgive but to love the person who hurt me with their words or fists.
When you feel that way, take a moment to think about what God was willing to do for you. He gave up His one and only Son. He let Jesus die for you and me, so that we would no longer live in darkness.
True love gives
Think about that priest who sacrificed his life to save the one of that man who was supposed to die.
True love is open to giving others the last bow. The exception to this is when you’re speaking out against injustice. God may call you to do that for someone who has been wronged. Don’t leave them without help in their hour of need. Be there. Stand there. Walk with them through whatever they’re going through. That’s the face of God’s love.
Our sins are forgiven if we call out to God with a penitent heart.
That’s sacrificial love.
That’s the love of the Father who’s willing to give us the last bow.
Dr. Kevin Osborne is the Dean of Psychology and President of Student Affairs for St. James the Elder University. He is s therapist, writer, poet, and singer. He helps people in their inner healing journey. Dr. Kevin Osborne lives in Timmins, Ontario, Canada, with his wife, Karen. She is the Registrar for SJTEU. She is also a counsellor. Karen
Posted on March 20, 2023, in On Loving Others and tagged communityoutreach, crucifixion, evangelism, forgiveness, Holocaust, lovingothers, missionary, salvation, South Korea. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.
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