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Unrealistic Choice

by Anne Connue

The congregation at a little country church had just sung a few hymns. Now they watched as their well-beloved pastor stood up and took his customary place behind the pulpit.

After an opening prayer, the pastor announced, “For prayer meeting tonight I have a special treat for you. One of my dearest childhood friends is in the audience, and I want you to meet him. In fact, I’ve asked him to share something with you. I’ve encouraged him to say whatever is on his heart.”

The pastor sat down as an elderly man stepped forward and greeted the audience with a smile. “We all like stories,” he began, “and tonight I have a story for you that particularly touches my heart. It involves a father, his son, and the son’s young friend.”

The man’s eyes held a faraway look, as if he were seeing things that no one else could view.

“It was a gorgeous day on the Pacific Coast. The father was an experienced sailor, and he offered to take the two boys sailing.”

A fleeting smile crossed the old man’s face. “The boys needed no second invitation, and soon the three were enjoying a lovely time on the ocean. Then, suddenly, a violent storm came up out of nowhere. The man struggled to keep control of the boat as rain poured down in torrents. A fierce wind whipped the sails, and huge waves crashed against the little sailboat. Finally, despite the man’s best efforts, the boat capsized and all three were swept into the churning sea.”

The man hesitated as he made eye contact with two boys who, for the first time since the service began, looked somewhat interested. The aged speaker then continued his story: “The father swam to the capsized boat and grabbed a rescue line. At that moment, he had to make the most excruciating decision of his life. With only seconds to deliberate, he must choose which boy would be thrown the other end of the lifeline. Even the torrential waves could not match the agony of his decision.

“The father surveyed the scene before him. Both boys were bobbing in the water—and both were holding out their arms in a desperate plea to be saved. The father turned toward his son—the apple of his eye and the light of his life. ‘I love you, son,’ he called. Then, coiling the line, he aimed it toward the other boy.”

The man’s voice broke and he wiped the corner of his eyes with a handkerchief. “By the time the father had pulled the boy back to the capsized boat, his own son had disappeared beneath the raging swells. His body was never recovered.”

By this time, the two teenagers were sitting up straight in the pew, their eyebrows raised in disbelief. As the old man continued, he answered their unspoken question. “The father,” he explained, “knew that his son loved Jesus and was ready to meet Him in the clouds of glory. He also knew that his son’s friend had never surrendered to God. He could not bear the thought of that young boy being lost forever. And that is why he sacrificed his son and saved the son’s friend.”

The speaker opened his Bible. “Yet even that sacrifice, as painful as it was, is nothing in comparison with the sacrifice our heavenly Father made for us.” As he read the familiar words of John 3:16, they seemed filled with new meaning: “ ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’

“God chose you!” The man’s voice rang with conviction. “He let His own Son die so that you could be saved. Will you accept His offer to rescue you—or will you throw yourself back into the raging torrent of sin?”

After a few solemn moments of silence, the old man returned to his seat. The pastor stood up and delivered a short sermon followed by an altar call. The two teenage boys squirmed in their seats, but they did not go forward. However, after the service ended, both boys rushed to the old man’s side. “That was an interesting story,” one of the boys began, “but we don’t think it is very realistic. A father would never give up his son’s life in the hopes that another boy might become a Christian.”

“You’ve got a point there.” A smile lightened the man’s gaunt face. “I can certainly understand why you would find it hard to believe. However, I’m standing here today to tell you that no matter how unrealistic it may seem, it is absolutely true—and it gives me a glimpse of what it must have been like for God to give up His Son for me.”

The old man paused, and then looked with penetrating eyes at the two boys. “You see, I was that father—and your pastor was my son’s friend.”

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