Ice Bucket Challenge: Charity Selfie or True Sacrifice

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of The Christian Post or its editors.

I haven't done it and I don't know if I will. Dumping ice water over your head and posting the video on social media. Don't get me wrong, I certainly believe in the cause, and even more important, in the man behind it. I am a proud alumnus of Boston College, and since former BC ball player Pete Frates started this whole movement, I couldn't be more supportive. Promoting awareness and more importantly raising funds for ALS is a worthy cause.

ALS, more commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks nerve cells and pathways in the brain and spinal cord. When the cells die so do voluntary muscle movement and control. In the later stages of the disease a person is totally paralyzed even though their minds remain alert.

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(Courtesy of Richmond Community Church)Pastor Rick McDaniel

Pete Frates is only 26 years old, but despite being confined to a wheelchair and on a respirator and feeding tube, he is leading the Ice Bucket Challenge. Pete's initiative has already raised more than $53 million for ALS research. It is a great idea especially the part about challenging three friends to do it as well. Of course the best part is raising money to find a cure for ALS. It has been 75 years since Gehrig gave his famous "luckiest man on the face of the earth" speech and there still is not a cure or even an effective treatment for ALS.

But I do have my concerns or at least reservations about the whole charity selfie phenomenon. I was recently reading about the history of Hawaii. The stories of the sacrifices Christian missionaries made to serve the people of Hawaii were incredible. Just to get to Hawaii required a six-month sea journey around Cape Horn navigating through some of the most treacherous waters in the world. The hardships these people went through just to get to Hawaii included seasickness, starvation and even death. They graduated from places like Yale and Princeton and gave up everything to serve in a foreign land. They received no salary, left behind all their family and had to start ministries from scratch. Once they got there they had to learn a new language and a whole new culture. Their wives died delivering children because there were no doctors. These missionaries were attacked and their churches burned because whalers and other sailors did not like the Christian teaching that young women should not be sexually abused.

The sacrifices of missionaries continue to this day. Those who work in central Europe to rescue women trapped in sex trafficking face real physical danger. The powerful mafias who enslave young women from eastern Europe and northern Africa do not want their immoral financial model to implode because these missionaries are rescuing their sex slaves.

And there is our most recent example of missionary sacrifice in the Ebola cases of Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol. Dr. Brantly is a physician who was infected while ministering in Liberia with the Samaritan's Purse ministry led by Billy Graham's son Franklin. Dr. Brantly volunteered to lead the Ebola case management center. Nancy came to Liberia with Service in Mission and was infected while serving in the isolation ward. They put their lives on the line to help people in serious need. Thankfully both recovered and were released from Emory University hospital last week. I personally know a medical missionary who works with AIDS in Africa. She graduated from Johns Hopkins and could have a lucrative private practice and instead lives on a meager salary while serving mostly children in the worst AIDS epidemic in the world. This is what real sacrifice looks like.

So my issue about the Ice Bucket Challenge is beyond the fact it can be silly or goofy. It is more than that it can be flippant or narcissistic. My concern is whether it trivializes the nature of sacrifice. Let's face it, dumping cold water over oneself or others then posting it to social media are easy. Giving $25 or $50 is not a big sacrifice for a lot of folks. I don't want the Ice Bucket Challenge to fail or end. I hope many millions more are raised and a cure for ALS is finally found. But I think it is vital to understand the true meaning of sacrifice. When you give up something you love for something you love more – that is sacrifice. When what you have left is less than what you have given – that is sacrifice. What would really be positive and impact our world in a huge way is to see true sacrifice become so popular.

Rick McDaniel is the senior pastor of Richmond Community Church in Richmond, Va., and highimpactchurch.tv. He is the author of Comeback: Overcoming The Setbacks In Your Life.
Twitter: @rickmcdaniel