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Jamie Johnson
April 22, 2010

Sacrifice or Love?

I had a conversation recently about doing for others and the idea arose that when a situation involves someone you love, it does not involve sacrifice; you do it because you love the person. However, this view only defines sacrifice as something negative. While sacrifices can be negative, many, perhaps most, are not negative. True love actually involves sacrifice.

It is easy to see how sacrifice has received a negative connotation. Sacrifice involves giving up something. In our rushed and materialistic "more is better" culture, the idea of giving something up is even more challenging. If one reads about Aztec human sacrifice or in the Bible about sacrifices to Molech, then one certainly sees the evil of these sacrifices. Some sacrifices are evil. If a man sacrifices his marriage for an affair, that is sin. If he does so for work, that is sin. These are not the types of sacrifices I am talking about here.

I am talking about the call of Christians to live their lives as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). Sacrifices in this manner are pleasing to God and they model the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ. Jesus' sacrifice was not only on the cross, but the mere fact that God came down as a man in humility (Philippians 2:6-8) was a sacrifice. Even in the Old Testament, God was pleased by sacrifices, such as the sacrifice offered by Abel (Genesis 4:4). Notice also that some sacrifices equal offerings and vice versa in the Old Testament. In 2 Corinthians 9:7, we are called to give cheerfully. The Greek for cheerful is íλαρóν or "ilaron" where we get the word hilarious (Source). We are to be joyful in our giving. That's being a living sacrifice. It is an act of worship and showing we love God.

I would suggest that true love must involve sacrifice. Jesus calls the Christian to take up his or her cross and follow Him daily. I would also suggest that sacrifice that pleases God involves true love as Paul concludes in 1 Corinthians 13. When one moves from singleness to marriage, there is sacrifice. The newlyweds love one another, but now financial decisions and other decisions must be made with the other in mind. A young single man might spend all his money on CDs and video games. Upon getting married, however, that should change. That change is a sacrifice. That does not mean he never buys CDs and video games, but anyone who tries to live as a single person when married is doomed to failure and exemplifying the sinful selfish nature of the flesh. I have mentioned elsewhere what Dr. Larry Crabb, a Christian psychologist, states in his book The Marriage Builder. He says that often persons come to a relationship asking what he or she can get out of the other person. Instead, each person should seek being filled with Christ so as to minister to the other person. Being filled with Christ is denying the self nature and that is a sacrifice, a living sacrifice. That is how one is to love.

Each time my wife and I have had a child, we have loved and treasured that child. However, each child brings change and there is sacrifice with each child - time, resources, etc. There is a laying down of one's life for the child and family. Jesus says, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).

Because we are born sinful in a fallen world (see Psalm 53:3, Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 3:23, and others), every day we must deny ourselves and trust that He will work in us to do His will. Sometimes, however, even our perceptions get in the way (As an analytical person, I am definitely talking to myself here): Why is another one not doing as we desire? Why does that person's sacrifice look different than mine? I don't see that person sacrificing. With such thoughts, we must remember some truths: That person may be wired differently, may have a different area of challenge, and is called to something else by God (something that may or may not be seen by others). Loving that person will involve sacrificing our own perceptions of them and choosing not to deem different preferences as sin. This is a challenge (I am speaking to myself here), but we all must realize that only the LORD looks at the heart (see 1 Samuel 16:7).

Economists state that great risk yields great returns. Risk involves sacrifice. Economists also mention opportunity costs. Opportunity costs are not necessarily monetary. They may involve costs to the body, to time, to sleep, to an ego, or to a preconception, etc. Opportunity costs are sacrifices. Sacrifices can be positive or negative, but positive sacrifices will be part of true love. I would even say that love that does not involve positive sacrifice could be deemed shallow (Though some who have had only a negative definition of sacrifice have loved with positive sacrifice without even calling it that - a love that is true and deep). To love you must give of yourself. Giving is sacrificial. Giving is to be done "hilariously" as part of being a living sacrifice. As my father, an octogenarian, has reflected on his life, he recently stated that he has been a living sacrifice -- being faithful and obedient and a good steward of what he has. He has loved us all well. He has been a living sacrifice. Love and positive sacrifice go hand-in-hand. May our lives be as living sacrifices -- loving sacrifices -- that we may hear "Well done, good and faithful servant."

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