Does compassion for the lost move you? Are we willing to go to our end for the rest of you? Have we gathered this? I know that I read these questions and I know that I fall so short. I will sacrifice for my family. I will sacrifice for those that I truly love but does sacrifice define my Christian walk?
Does everyone have someone who they are willing to sacrifice for? Is that the point? The Bible teaches us that perhaps we would be willing to die for a good man, maybe even for a righteousness or innocent man, but the obvious point is that nobody dies for a cruel man.
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5)
But this is the point that Jesus died for unworthy people. His sacrifice had nothing to do with the worthiness of us. This is love and this is God modeling it.
Jesus says in John 15:13 that there is no greater love than he who lays down his life for his friends. This is an important point because anyone can inconvenience themselves for a cause but there may not be love in the meaning. Jesus tells us to do good to everybody, if we only do good to those we love then we are no better than the garden variety sinner. Everybody does things for people they like.
But it is love that compels us to lay down our lives for others. The greatest risk, the greatest offering is our very lives. This is why soldiers are so respected. They offer the greatest service.
So we should understand what the sacrifice was. When people look at the Old Testament and think that God was such a mean person, that he was operating out of such a different play book, they miss the point. Go read the book of Revelation. God’s sense of justice and his willingness to wrath is ever-present. Now a lot of people do not like to think of God that way. But get this, Jesus’ sacrifice means little unless you understand that God has not changed, because there is still a reckoning.
Jesus’ sacrifice means so much because God’s wrath is very real. God’s holiness is very real. God’s sense of justice is very real and the need for payment is very real. Jesus understood this and that is why he can look at the masses and be moved by compassion. He knows what coming.
But where are we, do we have an unwillingness to sacrifice?
I am reminded of the movie Joe versus the Volcano. Great movie! The story goes that every 100 years a man of his own free will must jump into a volcano to appease a god or else the volcano will erupt and destroy the small island. A selfless hero must arise in order to save everyone else. The people however will not produce a hero so one must be found. Eventually they fine a man willing.
None of my people say. “I’ll go to my end for all of you”
“I don’t have any people of my own, Chief, I am my only hope for a hero.” (1990)
The people were unwilling to sacrifice so they needed a hired hand. Compassion did not move them to save each other. For us we are literally unable to make the payment for sin so God sacrifices for us. Let us remember the full verse from John 15.
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
Jesus tells us what great love is after he tells us that we are commanded to love one another. The greatest love is sacrificing. It is never self-seeking. It is always about the other person. This is why fairy tales are so moving. They tell the story of a hero risking it all for love. This troupe may be under attack today as more women are liberated and would never want to be a damsel in distress. But the greater point of the story was a love that sacrifices. This theme will never die, because it is true and it is virtuous.
Biblical sacrifice is a surrendering for the purpose of someone else. This is why the sacrifice of Issac is such a beautiful story. It was a picture of sacrifice, the very definition of human offering but symbolically representing the deeper truth. It was Abraham laying down all his hopes and dreams and relying on God. God didn’t want Abraham to go through with it, but he wanted to see if Abraham believed, because we sacrifice for things we believe in . What do we believe in, who do we believe in? We are to surrender to God our very lives. Jesus surrendered his very life and we are to offer ourselves to God. Not in death necessarily, but in service. God is looking for worship not sacrifice as in the offering system. So our offering is our service.
We offer love, we offer service, we offer ourselves.
But we can never do this unless we are first captured by the fact that God has first sacrificed for us. This is why “laying down your life” doesn’t put us off because we know that Jesus himself, God modeled it for us. Jesus was moved by compassion for us and so we should be moved by compassion for others. This is what it means when Jesus says in order to follow me you have to take up your cross. That signaled to everyone that the death march was in hand. This person’s fate was decided and they were simply doing the work to get them to their end. Our end is with God, but we carry the cross and sacrifice because we recognize the Gospel in being willing “to go to my end for the rest of you”.
A major part of this is simply being willing to sacrifice the social currency it takes to share this truth. Am I willing to be viewed as archaic, silly, ignorant or even bigoted? Because I believe such things and therefore want others to understand that God sacrificed for them? This is a sacrifice because Jesus tells us that the world hates this message that they need reconciliation to God. His love sacrificed for the message to be true and our love should sacrifice to get the message across.
It may not mean death, but it certainly means suffering inconvenience for other people. Because people are the point. As Christians we know we are supposed to forgive but do we understand that we are supposed to sacrifice as well? What might it look like you for? Talk to God about it.