Lent Part 6 – Invitation to Use the “S” Word (Sacrifice)

I once used the “S” word with my son, and he recoiled as though I’d slapped him across the face.  The “S” word has definitely fallen into disrepute in recent years, and my son’s reaction reflected that.  The word I’m talking about is sacrifice, and it’s almost become a swear word in our culture.

With tears in his eyes, he asked accusingly, “Is that how you see me – as a sacrifice?”

“Well, yes,I do,” I admitted.  “But sacrifice is a good thing, not a bad thing.”

I could tell he wasn’t convinced, so I tried to explain, “Your dad and I do make sacrifices for you and your brother, but we do it gladly because we love you.”

We’d been talking about how his friends are able to do some things that we won’t allow him to do, and he complained, “I wish you and dad didn’t care so much.  You’re making my life miserable.  I wish you’d just let me do what I want.”  After that, one thing led to another and before I knew it, I was using the “S” word and telling my son that I loved him too much to let him do whatever he wanted.

Unfortunately, when I used the “S” word, what my son heard was something like: “You’re such a nuisance to me – I can’t do any of the things I want to do because I have to spend all my time taking care of you and disciplining you.  All I do is sacrifice for you (sigh).  What a burden you are!”

As the dust settled, I was left with the sad realization that my son, along with most of our culture, doesn’t really understand what sacrifice is all about.  We see it as an obstacle blocking our goal of getting what we think we need and deserve.  The Burger King slogan, Have it Your Way, could easily become our national anthem, and if we can’t have it our way (without sacrifice), we don’t want it any way.

So why do we view sacrifice as a negative thing?  One obvious source of our problem is selfishness.  We live in an age of hedonism and self-centeredness, leading us to seek pleasure and personal gratification at almost any cost.  But there’s a root problem that’s even deeper than selfishness – it’s fear.

We’re afraid that if we have to make personal sacrifices for someone else, maybe our own needs won’t get met.  We’re afraid we may have to suffer unjustly.  We’re afraid the pain may be too much to bear.  We’re afraid that if we give too much of ourselves away, there will be nothing left of us.  Sadly, this fearful picture of sacrifice keeps us from seeing it for what it truly is – a gift.

If we really believe our needs will be met by God, we’ll be less fearful and more able to sacrifice our own needs for others.  If we don’t have to build walls of protection around our hearts and claw and scratch for our daily bread, we can more freely give away all that we have.  We can sacrifice, but it won’t feel like a burden.  it will be a joy, a true delight.

But how can we get past the fear that drives us?  The Bible tells us that “perfect love casts out fear (I John 4:18b).”  Only God’s perfect love can free me from the fear that leads me to clamor for control and try to take care of me first.  When I unclench my grasping hands and stop allowing fear to dictate my actions, then my hands are open and able to receive God’s loving provision.  I can’t get rid of the fear on my own – I need the Savior’s love to wash it away.

Ironically, true love equals sacrifice.  You can’t have one without the other.  The ultimate demonstration of God’s perfect love is seen in the ultimate sacrifice of His Son on the cross.  His sacrifice equals His love, which is offered freely so that I can be released from fear.

Receive His perfect love and let it cast out your fear

Today, God is inviting us to receive more of His sacrificial love and be set free from fear.  He’s also calling us to make the circle complete by sacrificially pouring His love out to others – whether it be to our kids (sacrifically providing the difficult but loving parenting they need), or to our spouse (sacrificing our desire to be in control and instead seeking ways to build them up), or to our co-worker (sacrificing our time to be there for them when they need us).  The opportunities for sacrifice are endless.

I pray that the “S” word will become a joyful part of our journey with Jesus toward the cross this Lenten season.  Our daily sacrifices can help us participate, in a small way, in the complete sacrifice He made for us.  As we sacrificially give ourselves away, we become transformed more into the likeness of Christ and are set free to receive more of God’s loving provision for our needs.

If you’re willing, I’d love to have you share in the comment section below about how God is working in your life these days in regard to sacrifice.  It’s a tough subject and we could all use some encouragement on the journey.

1 Comment

  1. Linda – thanks for this. I had a writing colleague from London who wrote an article about the “f” word: fun. From here perspective as a non-American, she was appalled at the overuse not only of the word, but of the idea. Is everything supposed to be fun? Yes. Everything is supposed to be fun here. Sadly, that leaves very little room for meaningful.

    The Gottman Institute studies show that marriage that are the happiest (funnest?) in the long run are those in which each party has made significant sacrifices for the other. Go figure. Ironically, even in our pursuit of the easy, entertaining way of living, our bodies and relationships tell us otherwise.

    I like to tell the story of my two daughters learning to sacrifice/give something up for Lent. Both gave up desserts. Sort of. About day 4, my 6th grader got up, popped in a toaster waffle and proceeded to smother it with syrup. When I suggested that maybe – perhaps – that would be dessert, she said, “Oh no, Mom, dessert is only after dinner.” Meanwhile, my 4th grader guffawed. She held her fast to the resurrection. She had somehow learned that sacrifice is not the enemy. And at such a young age.

    I, however, am still working on it.

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