Every young student knows of Isaac Newton's famed encounter with a falling apple.
Newton discovered and introduced the laws of gravity in the 1600s, which revolutionized
astronomical studies. But few know that if it weren't for Edmund Halley, the world might
never have learned from Newton. It was Halley who challenged Newton to think through his
original notions. Halley corrected Newton's mathematical errors and prepared geometrical
figures to support his discoveries. Halley coaxed the hesitant Newton to write his great
work, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. Halley edited and supervised
the publication, and actually financed its printing even though Newton was wealthier and
easily could have afforded the printing costs.
Historians call it one of the most selfless examples in the annals of science. Newton
began almost immediately to reap the rewards of prominence; Halley received little credit.
He did use the principles to predict the orbit and return of the comet that would later
bear his name, but only AFTER his death did he receive any acclaim. And because the comet
only returns every seventy-six years, the notice is rather infrequent. Halley remained a
devoted scientist who didn't care who received the credit as long as the cause was being
Others have played Halley's role. John the Baptist said of Jesus, "He must become
greater; I must become less." Barnabus was content to introduce others to greatness.
Many pray to uphold the work of one Christian leader. Such selflessness advances the
C.S. Kirkendall, Jr.
In Ernest Gordon's true account of life in a World War II Japanese prison camp, Through
the Valley of the Kwai, there is a story that never fails to move me. It is about a
man who through giving it all away literally transformed a whole camp of soldiers. The
man's name was Angus McGillivray. Angus was a Scottish prisoner in one of the camps filled
with Americans, Australians, and Britons who had helped build the infamous Bridge over the
River Kwai. The camp had become an ugly situation. A dog-eat-dog mentality had set in.
Allies would literally steal from each other and cheat each other; men would sleep on
their packs and yet have them stolen from under their heads. Survival was everything. The
law of the jungle prevailed...until the news of Angus McGillivray's death spread
throughout the camp. Rumors spread in the wake of his death. No one could believe big
Angus had succumbed. He was strong, one of those whom they had expected to be the last to
die. Actually, it wasn't the fact of his death that shocked the men, but the reason he
died. Finally they pieced together the true story.
The Argylls (Scottish soldiers) took their buddy system very seriously. Their buddy was
called their "mucker," and these Argylls believed that is was literally up to
each of them to make sure their "mucker" survived. Angus's mucker, though, was
dying, and everyone had given up on him, everyone, of course, but Angus. He had made up
his mind that his friend would not die. Someone had stolen his mucker's blanket. So Angus
gave him his own, telling his mucker that he had "just come across an extra
one." Likewise, every mealtime, Angus would get his rations and take them to his
friend, stand over him and force him to eat them, again stating that he was able to get
"extra food." Angus was going to do anything and everything to see that his
buddy got what he needed to recover.
But as Angus's mucker began to recover, Angus collapsed, slumped over, and died. The
doctors discovered that he had died of starvation complicated by exhaustion. He had been
giving of his own food and shelter. He had given everything he had -- even his very life.
The ramifications of his acts of love and unselfishness had a startling impact on the
"Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his
friends" (John 15:12).
As word circulated of the reason for Angus McGillivray's death, the feel of the camp
began to change. Suddenly, men began to focus on their mates, their friends, and humanity
of living beyond survival, of giving oneself away. They began to pool their talents -- one
was a violin maker, another an orchestra leader, another a cabinet maker, another a
professor. Soon the camp had an orchestra full of homemade instruments and a church called
the "Church Without Walls" that was so powerful, so compelling, that even the
Japanese guards attended. The men began a university, a hospital, and a library system.
The place was transformed; an all but smothered love revived, all because one man named
Angus gave all he had for his friend. For many of those men this turnaround meant
survival. What happened is an awesome illustration of the potential unleashed when one
person actually gives it all away.
Tim Hansel, Holy Sweat, 1987, Word Books Publisher,