George Bowers Sr.: Human sacrifices then and now
My wife and I recently enjoyed a wonderful vacation in Hawaii. It was the first either of us had been to the Aloha State and it was incredible. Inviting beaches, amazing mountains, and beautiful flowers everywhere you look. God’s creative genius amazed us and moved us to worship him more than once.
While there, I did some reading about Hawaii’s history, which dates back many centuries. The earliest inhabitants are believed to have come from the Marquesas Islands somewhere in the first century A.D. They lived, loved, and died on these islands virtually unknown to the rest of the world for many years before Captain Cook finally discovered them in 1778.
Like every other civilization in the world, these people too recognized the existence of a creator and sought to honor him the best they knew. Sadly, part of their religious rituals included human sacrifices. Countless men, women, and children were killed over the years to appease their various gods. They believed these cruel acts would ensure blessing and safety and make their lives better. What a horrible waste of life and potential and what a sad part of the history of these beautiful islands.
As we visited some of the sites where these sacrifices took place, I was struck by several observations. First of all, it amazed me that many, if not most religions demand some type of blood sacrifice. Where did that come from and how did it survive independently in so many different cultures? Is it possible that there was a common ancestral experience deep in our history that recognized the shedding of blood as a necessary atonement for sin?
Unlike these other gods and goddesses, the God of the Bible has never demanded human blood. Rather, he condemned and judged tribes and cultures that sacrificed humans because it was and is an abomination to him. Instead of human blood, he prescribed animal sacrifices until such time as he would give his own blood to cover our sin. Only in Christianity do we see a god who satisfies his own demands through his personal sacrifice and love. No wonder it’s called good news and imagine how welcome it was when the native Hawaiians found out they didn’t need to kill their sons and daughters anymore because Jesus had already become their perfect offering.
One other fact also struck me, however. While modern cultures condemn such horrific human sacrifices, we legally allow, and even encourage, the killing of unborn children in our supposedly advanced civilization. Although there are usually no religious connotations involved and no effort to appease a god, it is nonetheless an attempt to do exactly what these ancient peoples did: improve their own lives at someone else’s expense.
Once again, Jesus and his teachings rise up to provide a better way of thinking and of living in which no one has to die to improve the life of another, because one already has done so. Because of Jesus, not only has our sin debt been paid in full and no more sacrifice is necessary, but he also gives strength, grace, and wisdom to deal with the most challenging of life’s circumstances, including unplanned pregnancies.
Jesus’ followers have joined together to love mothers and fathers facing such difficult decisions through the ministry of pregnancy centers like the one in Edinburg. These are places where babies as well as their moms and dads are loved and cared for not only until delivery, but as long as help is needed. In addition, for those mothers who decide not to raise their children, these Christians provide help in finding adoptive parents who will love and care for these children as their own. In Jesus, there is enough love to go around, enough forgiveness and grace to cover every sin, and enough joy to fill each heart.
As we consider primitive cultures around the world and shudder at their warped understanding of God’s expectations, let us be mindful of our own blind spots and those of our time. And let’s support those who are loving others in Jesus’ name.
George Bowers Sr. is the senior pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren and has authored eight books, including his latest, “Celebration Time, A Collection of Brethren Love Feasts.” He can be reached through www.georgebowersministries.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org.