What does the word “sacrifice” mean to you? Does it remind you of what some people do during Lent, or conjure up images of ancient peoples burning slaughtered animals? On Memorial Day we consider the sacrifice of those in the military, but in its purest form, to sacrifice simply means to give something up–to deprive yourself–in order to provide others something of greater value.
“For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” (Luke 9:24)
The act of defending your country is a sacrificial one. The idea that those most physically able join together to protect those who cannot has long been honored as necessary, and many have given the ultimate sacrifice of their very life doing so. But we cannot and must not compartmentalize the idea of self-sacrifice. Just as reflecting Jesus to others is not something only a select few who have been through pastoral training do, giving our life for others is also not something only those in the military do. Granted, the rest of us will probably not be called on to take up arms to defend ourselves against foreign invaders, but for a follower of Jesus, sacrifice is a way of life because a genuinely Christian life is a sacrificial one.
Just as Jesus sacrificed His glory and power to be born a frail human infant and grow up and die for our transgressions, so those who follow Him must rightly live for the furtherance of the Gospel. It is exactly as He said, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” (Luke 9:24) Yet the concept of sacrife is all but forgotten in our egocentric society. Today, we tend to live for ourselves. For the most part, we do what pleases us–what causes “me” either the most pleasure and comfort or the least discomfort and pain. How our actions affect others is only a peripheral afterthought, if that. Yet previous generations well understood that this is not how we should live.
Take the concept of saving, for example–of not spending what you have earned today in order to be able to have a better tomorrow. People used to save for buying a home or a car, to start a business, for their children’s educations. With the advent of credit much of this has been lost, because greater access to borrowed funds precludes the necessity for lengthy saving, but those of us with children still understand sacrificing for a greater good.
We understand sleepless nights when they are little or sick, supporting their academic and extracurricular activities, the need for an education. We understand that if they are to be able to get on their feet properly we may have to put our own lives on hold for a season–perhaps even multiple seasons, or even forever if need be. It is a question of priorities, of what is more important–their future well-being, or my trivial pleasures? Even if what I would like to spend my time, talents, and money on is not particularly self-indulgent, choices have to be made because resources are finite.
Ultimately, the greatest sacrifice is that of our very lives, which we should live for Jesus Christ and for His glory. We should be able to say with the Apostle Paul, “I am…being poured out as a drink offering…” (II Timothy 4:6) Once we understand that, we are well on our way to understanding why Jesus called us: “…that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” (II Corinthians 5:15)
So, do you understand the concept of sacrifice–of giving up your life for a greater good? Are you “…present[ing] your bod[y] a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1) Can you rightly say that you being poured out for His glory–are you spending your life pursuing God’s purposes, helping people get right with Him–“…make[ing] disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that…[Jesus has] commanded you?” (Matthew 28:19-20) If so, you get it. You can honestly say with previous generations that you understand what sacrifice means.
Help me lose my life for Your sake, that I may save it! Amen.