Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Way of Sacrifice

It's almost impossible to approach Easter without remembering that this is a season of sacrifice. And sacrifice is almost always harder than we think it will be. Our fasts leave us hungrier. Our good deeds leave us more tired. Our almsgiving digs deeper into our pockets than we expected. Sacrifice, we find, hurts.

But the degree of pain that a sacrifice inflicts is not a good measure of its efficacy. Our sacrifice can hurt plenty, but still have little worth in the eyes of God. 

I desire mercy, not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6), God tells us. In other words, sacrifice for its own sake or sacrifice with any other object or person in mind than God Himself is, in the end, futile, a chasing after wind (Ecclesiastes 1:14).

Our sacrifice cannot have any other object than to please God. Period.

That's what Jesus did.
I come to do the will of my Father.--John 6:38
It is a near-misnomer to say that Jesus came to save us. 
He did save us, but that was not His main aim. His aim was to obey His Father. His Father wanted us saved, so Jesus saved us. But, had His father wanted Him to do something else, He would have done the other thing.
Jesus was more obedient than He was sympathetic. And we are to follow His example.
If we don't, our sacrifices become dependent on their results.

Think about it. We naturally want our sacrifices to bear fruit. We want our children to respond to us when we do something special for them. We want the money we donate to be well spent. We want the unbeliever we befriended to come to follow Christ. We want the person we took in to amend their life.
But often, they don't. And we feel drained, betrayed, taken advantage of.
That's the clue.
If, when we have done something for someone and they have not responded in the way we hope for, making us angry or disappointed or discouraged, we have done it for the wrong reason.
It's true.

Remember Jesus. We often say that Jesus would have died for the sake of saving just one soul. That's true. but it's also true that He would have died for the salvation of no souls at all.
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.--Romans 5:8
He died equally for those who repent and those who do not. He died for us all. And whether one or a thousand or a million souls or none come to Him as a result, He was successful in what He set out to do.He did His Father's will and it was enough.

When our Lord healed one sick person and not another, He was responding to what His Father asked of Him. When He raised some from the dead and not others, He did the same. When the rich young ruler asked how to be saved, He let the man walk away. He showed Himself to the Samaritan woman, but did not chase after her.
Christ did not consider the feelings of those He loved above those of His Father. He called Peter 'Satan' when Peter opposed Him. He rebuked the apostles for retaliation at Gethsemane. No one, not even those He loved, prevented His obedience. That way, He always stayed in a state of grace. That's how He never sinned.

People often get  between us and our God. They don't mean to. And we, I'm convinced, don't mean to put them there. After all, God made them, just like He made us. Loving them is a privilege and one of the wonderful parts of this life.

But we can't confuse loving people with loving God. They are not the same thing. 
Everybody's problem will not be ours to solve. We are not to bind up all wounds. We are to sacrifice ourselves to Him and only to Him. He owns us, no one else. We cannot elevate anyone's need above God's.

Sometimes, God does send us as Samaritans to bind up the wounds of someone on the Jericho road, but not always. Sometimes, that man is for someone else or for God Himself. That's why Jesus tells so emphatically to seek God. We have got to learn the difference, or we will add burdens to our lives we were never meant to have.

Any cross we pick up in this life has to be a cross God has given us. 
The cross anyone else gives us will be too heavy to carry.


  1. Wonderful post! I never thought about it that way! <3

    1. Thanks, Julia! Tis the season for these thoughts....Happy Easter!

  2. Wow...Jo Anne, thought provoking as usual. The last line especially. Happy Easter to you!

    1. Having just gotten back from Good Friday service, well, this really hits home. Happy Easter, friend.

  3. Wow... what a freeing thought. Everyone's needs are not MY responsibility! And this, about Jesus: "He did His Father's will and it was enough."
    Very well put, JoAnne.

    1. And you know, Janice, I think that we instinctively know this, but we just feel so darn guilty when we act on it, equating God's command to help our brother with our brother's own perceived need. They are not the same thing. God, give me the grace and vision to see the difference.