On 16 March 1912 Antarctic explorer Lawrence “Titus” Oates made a very big decision. He was one of the party led by Captain Scott who wanted to be the first men to reach the South Pole. They had succeeded in reaching the Pole only to discover that a team led by Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen, had beaten them by 35 days.
On the return journey Scott’s party faced extremely difficult conditions. One man had already died, and Oates’ feet were severely frostbitten, which meant the whole part was making slow progress. This, and the shortage of food, was endangering all their lives, but the rest of the party refused to leave Oates behind. When he woke on the morning of 16 March Oates knew he had to sacrifice himself in order to give the others a chance of survival. Scott wrote that Oates said to them; “I am just going outside and may be some time.” He walked out of the tent into a blizzard. His body has never been found. Sadly the rest of the party also died just 9 days later, 11 miles from safety.
Captain Scott wrote in his diary, “We knew it was the act of a brave man and an English gentleman.” Titus Oates’ biographer said “Titus Oates was an ordinary man who was made extraordinary by the circumstances he faced at the end of his life”. The words and example of Titus Oates have been an inspiration to many.
One of the two great commandments God has given us is, “Love your neighbour as you love yourself.” None of us needs to be taught to love ourselves, it comes naturally, but to love someone else with that same intensity of love is not so easy. Titus Oates’ actions are an example of what it means to obey God’s command. Oates desperately wanted to live, but his weakness was endangering the lives of his companions, so he did for them what he would have wanted them to do for him.
The supreme example of self-sacrifice is seen in the death of Jesus Christ. He said, “Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” The apostle Paul wrote, “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”