Recently I watched part of a news documentary that had a segment on kidney transplants. It specifically focused on a business in China that specializes in kidney transplants.

China has built a modern, well equipped hospital that utilizes western technology and is specifically designed for transplant surgery. The primary purpose of this hospital is to perform kidney transplants for foreign patients who purchase a kidney and the procedure. The principal recipients of this service are Americans.

I found what happens to be both believable and unbelievable at the same time.

The hospital is located near a prison. The prison schedules monthly executions. Quickly, after executions, the kidneys of the executed prisoners are removed by persons trained for that purpose. The kidneys are transported to the hospital and transplanted into waiting recipients.

This documentary showed a film of an execution. A number of men were lined up in a row side by side, on their knees, with their hands tied behind their backs. Each man was shot at point blank range with a pistol. Simultaneously, each was shot at the base of the skull. That specific method and manner of execution does not damage the kidneys.

Arrangements can be made here in American to purchase one of the kidneys and receive the transplant. A number of kidneys are available each month. An undercover applicant inquiring about the surgery was urged to make his decision quickly because the supply of kidneys does not meet the demand. Thus far, according to the documentary, ten thousand kidney transplants have been performed.

As I watched these men on their knees waiting to die, two thoughts quickly raced through my mind. The first thought: would what they did even be considered a crime in our country? I expect we would be horrified if we knew why some of those people were executed. Second thought: had these men ever even heard the words, Jesus Christ?

  1. I have not seen much of the world, but I have seen some of it.
    1. Among the peoples I have seen are:
      1. People living in conditions too primitive for many Americans to understand.
      2. People who did not live in primitive circumstances, but who live in overwhelming poverty.
      3. People who have had the hope that only God can give systematically removed from their society.
      4. Most of these people are powerless to alter their circumstances.
    2. Because of what I have seen, at times some realizations overwhelm me.
      1. When I consider the blessings, the privileges, and the opportunities that I have known in my life, I am overwhelmed.
      2. I benefit from a choice set of circumstances because I was born in America.
      3. I was not given the opportunity to choose the country of my birth.
      4. I had absolutely nothing to do with creating that circumstance.
      5. I have seen enough to know what my life would be if I had been born in many, many other countries of the world.
      6. Personally, that is very, very humbling.
    3. One of the problems that troubles me most about us Americans is our arrogance.
      1. It is not intentional, and much of the time we don't realize that we are arrogant.
      2. We are so accustomed to possessing, to liberty, to rights, to choices, to opportunities that we think the rest of the world should be like us.
      3. Intellectually we understand that people in most other countries do not have the standard of living or opportunities that we do.
      4. But it is very difficult for us to realize that their world is totally different from our world.
      5. We wonder why other people do not improve things in ways that we think they should be improved.
      6. And, consciously or unconsciously, we tend to look down on them because they don't measure up to our standards and expectations.
    4. The first time that Joyce and I returned from Africa for leave time, we were eager to show our pictures and share our experiences with our families.
      1. My dad looked in disbelief at the way the people lived.
      2. After we showed many of our slides, he basically had one comment: "I wouldn't live that way. I would take my hammer and nails and improve on that."
      3. I remember asking him, "Dad, what if you were so poor that you did not own and could not buy a hammer or nails?"
      4. Those circumstances were beyond his comprehension.
    5. We Americans are such a small part of this world, and yet we think as if the rest of the world is small and we are the larger part.

  2. Salvation in Jesus Christ is the great equalizer of all humanity.
    1. What impresses people and what impresses God are two entirely different matters.
      1. God is not impressed by our physical circumstances or with our intellectual development. People may be, but God is not.
        1. God never says, "Wow! Look where they live! Look at what they have!"
        2. He never says, "Look at his or her incredible educational background."
      2. God is impressed with a person's heart and with a person's faith.
        1. Heart qualities impress God: love, mercy, compassion, humility, forgiveness, gentleness, kindness.
        2. God is impressed with the trust that is called faith: the willingness of a person to trust God's promises, to place confidence in God's assurance, to accept and trust God's accomplishments in Christ.
      3. The heart qualities that impress God can exist in any person in any set of physical circumstances.
      4. The trust that impresses God is not dependent on the person's education.
    2. Paul emphasized that point to both the Corinthian Christians and the Ephesian Christians.
      1. To the Corinthian Christians he wrote, For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world, and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that he might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God (NAS, 1 Corinthians 1:26-29).
      2. Listen to this same reading from the New Century Version: Brothers and sisters, look at what you were when God called you. Not many of you were wise in the way the world judges wisdom. Not many of you had great influence. Not many of you came from important families. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and he chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He choose what the world thinks is unimportant in order to destroy what the world thinks is important. God did this so that no one can brag in his presence (NCV, 1 Corinthians 1:26-29).
      3. To the Ephesian Christians, Paul wrote this: For by grace have you been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (NAS, Ephesians 2:8-10).
      4. Again, listen to the same statement in the New Century Version: I mean that you have been saved through grace by believing. You did not save yourselves; it was a gift from God. It was not the result of your own efforts, so you cannot brag about it. God made us what we are. In Christ Jesus, God made us to do good works, which God planned in advance for us to live our lives doing (NCV, Ephesians 2:8-10).

  3. Grasping the biblical concept of God's love is the greatest single understanding the human mind can comprehend.
    1. Even when we grasp the concept of God's love, we struggle to trust the meaning and significance of His love.
      1. God loves the person in the most primitive circumstances on earth as much as God loves me.
      2. God loves the person in the most poverty stricken circumstances on earth as much as God loves me.
      3. God loves the person in the most disadvantaged circumstances on earth as much as God loves me.
    2. That is why we seek to share the good news of Jesus Christ to people everywhere.
      1. Our motivation must be much more than:
        1. Fulfilling a command.
        2. Meeting a spiritual obligation.
        3. Or trying to plant a church.
      2. This very minute, every person on earth has a Savior, and every person on earth needs to know about his or her Savior.
        1. Every person needs to learn about and understand the blessing and freedom of forgiveness.
        2. Every person needs to learn about and know of the hope that is available for him or her.
        3. Every person needs to hear about and understand the peace that he or she can have.
      3. The greatest personal reason each of us has for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ is the desire "to share my Savior."
        1. We have experienced forgiveness and know its meaning.
        2. We have experienced the hope and are sustained by it.
        3. We have experienced the peace and live in it.
      4. No one needs to die without the assurance of the hope Christ gave us when he died.
      5. Everyone needs to die in the peace that Jesus gives us.

As I see the picture of those men kneeling in the dirt with their hands tied behind them and think about the thousands of others who have been executed, I wonder. In the weeks that they awaited execution, what were their thoughts? Did they have any form of hope to sustain them, or was there only despair? Did they have any peace within to turn to, or was there only fatalistic acceptance? Did death have meaning, or were they only relieved to end the inevitable?

For the person whose heart trusts and depends on what God did in Jesus Christ, and for the person who never heard of Jesus Christ, those questions have very different answers.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 2 November 1997

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