John 15:13 – (Jesus said), For the greatest love of all is a love that sacrifices all. And this great love is demonstrated when a person sacrifices his life for his friends.
We struggle with the word “sacrifice.” While we “think” we know what it means and want to understand, it is hard to wrap our heads wrap around the breadth and depth of what this word means.
Yes, we make small sacrifices regularly. We deny ourselves some food that makes our mouth water because someone told us, “A moment on the lips is a month on the hips” and we believed it. We deny a child or grandchild the newest toy because they already have enough, and, oh, by the way, Christmas is coming. We may not purchase that pair of shoes we have been eyeing because our spouse already thinks we have too many shoes.
While in the moment, this and a zillion other little choices we make feel like a sacrifice. But are they really?
Some choices truly are a sacrifice. Staying in an unfulfilling job to provide a steady income and health insurance for the family. Letting your spouse drive the newer vehicle with lower milage for peace of mind. Choosing what bill to pay this week and which one to let set until another day. Electing not to attend college because the cost is prohibitive.
And a bunch of other examples.
We may make the sacrifice of not getting something we need so a child can participate in an activity that is important. We get up long before the sun does to drive grandchildren to school when they live nearly an hour away. We redirect finances or food towards another family member because “they need it worse.”
These are all important ways we deny ourselves something; little sacrifices we make. Most often, it is for the benefit of another person. Doing so makes us feel like we have made a difference in another person’s life, if only for a minute.
Some sacrifices are earth-shattering and life-changing. I have been reading about the 1930’s Depression and Dust Bowl lately. Some books are historical fiction, other stories are based on real-life situations. It is so hard for me to imagine the helplessness these folks felt while trying to keep their families alive. The sacrifices made to feed children, deal with the constant dust and dirt from the winds and try to keep animals alive are heart-wrenching.
Both sets of my Grandparents were married during the Depression. They began with nothing and lived on love those early married years. I wish that I would have asked more questions about what it was like to live in the Depression. I asked my Grandma Deaton about it one time. She shared some but found it so difficult to recount those harrowing days. It made her uncomfortable to share all of her memories and the sacrifices they made to keep their little family going.
When the pandemic began, the word “sacrifice” became a word we often heard. But not everyone uses the same measuring stick with sacrifice. Until something affects us personally, we do not know how far we will go. We struggle with how sacrifice affects personal freedom versus what may be best for the greater good. Our feelings and emotions can be very raw on this topic, which means it’s best for me to not poke the bear.
We admire people who have made great sacrifices. On today, Veteran’s Day, we celebrate and honor those who made a sacrifice for our country. My Dad was in the service when my parents were married. He flew back to Germany and fulfilled his service commitment for about 18 months after they married, while my Mom continued to live in rural Iowa. Yes, this was a sacrifice. In the end, my Dad came home. Not every service person’s story has this ending. Certainly, these families made a much larger sacrifice and lives were forever changed.
Another group of people whose lives were forever changed when their leader made a sacrifice. He spoke with them about sacrifice the night before he died. Jesus told his closest friends that the ultimate sign of love is when one sacrifices themselves for the benefit of others. The disciples probably did not understand or get what Jesus was talking about the night. Soon, he would sacrifice everything so he could show the world how much he loves us. Talk about the ultimate sacrifice.
We often say something like, “I’d do ANYTHING to ______.” Whether we are talking about our children, grandchildren, loved one, a work or another situation, it’s natural and easy to say these words. But will we live up to them? Will we do ANYTHING …
Jesus teaches us that sacrifice must be rooted in love. When we love something, we’re more likely to give up something and make a sacrifice. How far are we willing to go? I’m not sure we can answer this until we are fully in a situation where have to make the tough call. We can have perfect intention without perfect application.
Jesus knew how far he would go. And he did it. He withstood the most awful way to die just so we would have the opportunity to know much he loved us. For him, sacrifice is real. He lived it and changed the world because of his sacrifice.
Thankfully, because Jesus did this, the rest of us do not have to. His ultimate sacrifice covers us. We will never have to make a sacrifice to this extent. Sometimes, it may feel like we have. And when those moments happen, we can turn to Jesus as someone who fully knows what sacrifice means. He is the one who can comfort us in our bitter anger and helplessness when we feel the sacrifice has been too much. For those who have these feelings, I pray turning to Jesus can help you work through them.
On this day, I pray we can slow down just enough to think about what sacrifice means for us. Yep, we will never know the full extent of how far we would go to make an ultimate sacrifice. I pray that we will not be put in a position where we have to make this call. Nonetheless, we can appreciate and value those who have made sacrifices for our benefit. Let’s do this today.
For Jesus’ lesson on sacrifice, I am grateful.
Holy God – We see so many sacrifices around us. Thank you for the ultimate one that Jesus made for us. May we see this sacrifice as rooted in love for us. Amen.