From replacing blood lost after an accident or during surgery, to treating complex medical conditions and more, donating blood can literally save someone’s life. The NHS say that one donation can help as many as three people, and yet only about 4 per cent of us give blood. Fleshandblood.org suggest that approximately 225,000 extra blood donors are needed per year.
Please disregard any hint of self-righteousness. Until very recently, I didn’t give blood myself. I’m not scared of needles. I don’t have any medical conditions that would stop me donating. I think it was probably just laziness.
It took my wife getting ill a few years ago to motivate me to donate. It wasn’t that she needed blood that only I could give, it was seeing the incredible difference that a few blood transfusions made for her. It’s no exaggeration to say that the blood transfusions my wife received transformed her life – and in that respect her story is far from unique. How could I not step up to offer that gift to someone else?
It’s pretty logical; I’ve got more of something than I need, and my body will make it back quickly anyway – but to someone else this red sticky stuff is priceless. The cost to me is comparatively small: an hour or two every few months, the slight sting of a needle prick, and maybe a bit of aching and bruising afterwards. On this reasoning you don’t have to be a saint to give blood, it just makes sense. But when I started thinking about it I realised that my faith does have plenty to say on this – and some of it is not entirely comfortable.
As a Christian, Jesus is at the very centre of my faith. He lived his life for others, and made the ultimate self-sacrifice in dying on the cross. Aware that my faith isn’t just a “ticket to heaven”, Jesus shows us what it means to be truly human. In John 15 he says: “Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” For me, regularly donating blood is one way of doing just that – putting myself out for the sake of others. Showing love.
“But you have no idea who will get your blood!” I hear you shout. “How is that loving your friends?” Fair point. However, Jesus also said that I should love even my enemies, that there are no boundaries to God’s love and care, so there shouldn’t be to mine either – Matthew 5:43–48.
And here is the scary part: the self-sacrifice in this kind of love doesn’t draw a line at the small inconvenience of giving blood. I’m also pretty sure that I’ve got two healthy kidneys (that’s one more than I need), some spare bone marrow, and probably some spare liver too. The stakes are higher – the thought of surgery is definitely a touch more daunting than a little needle scratch – but imagine a world where Jesus followers erased transplant waiting lists with loving self-sacrifice. What’s stopping me now?
If this has sparked your interest you can check out blood/organ donation at fleshandblood.org.