Kay Warren Remembers the 'Radical Obedience' of Elisabeth Elliot

06.15.15 | by Christianity Today Magazine

Early this morning, Elisabeth Elliot came face to face with her heart’s truest love—Jesus Christ. On Earth, she married three times—her first two husbands preceded her in death – but from earliest childhood her deepest affections were for her Savior, and it was for Him that her soul yearned. June 15, 2015 is the day her lifelong passion, zeal, and rugged obedience see fulfillment in his presence. I am thrilled for her!

I, on the other hand, am sitting here with tears in my eyes, already missing one of my most sacred companions on the journey towards home. I know from the get-go that I will not be able to fully articulate her impact on me; words are going to fail me in my attempt to honor her, but I have to try.

As a college freshman in 1972, I got to be a part of history. My little (at the time) college—California Baptist—was no different than hundreds of other Christian colleges. We lived in the era of no dancing, drinking, smoking, girls couldn’t wear pants to class, “mixed bathing” was frowned upon, drums and guitar in worship were radical ideas, and boys with long hair were instantly pegged as hippies (which was definitely not a good thing). Our faith was buttoned up, quiet, respectful, filled with rules and regulations, and not very exciting or challenging.

But then the Jesus Movement began to explode across the nation, captivating young adults with the message that God was cool and that to be a Jesus Freak was even cooler. Our campus jumped in as well and long hair, granny dresses, guitars, drums, psychedelic posters and phrases like “Sell out to Jesus!” and “I’d rather burn out than rust out!” infiltrated our conversations—and we began to burn with a fire for our spiritually confused and lost world.

I stayed up late reading about Christians from generations past, biographies of men and women who lived full-bore for Christ. When I should have been studying English Lit and the History of Civilization, I was enraptured by the likes of C.T. Studd, Leonard Ravenhill, Andrew Murray, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, William Carey, David Brainerd, Evangeline Booth, and Duncan Campbell and Amy Carmichael.

And then I read The Shadow of the Almighty and Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliott, and my life was never the same. She wrote first of her husband, Jim, and four other passionate, dedicated young men who were martyred in the Amazon jungle by the Indians they were trying to reach for Christ. I was transfixed by the story of these five couples (and children) that let go of earthly ties to tell the good news to some who might never otherwise hear of God’s love.