A couple weeks ago, I saw an image on Twitter that I have not been able to get out of my mind. It was a picture of a woman holding up a sign that read “sacrifice the weak.” My jaw dropped and, even as I’m writing this now, I can hardly believe there are people in the world today who are willing to say that. My heart breaks at the fact that this is our reality. But the image has gotten me thinking about the nature of sacrifice.
Sacrifice, like so many other things in life, reveals our priorities. Parents are willing to sacrifice for their children because they love them more than words can express. Creatives or visionaries are willing to sacrifice many things in order to bring their dream to life. We will sacrifice certain luxuries or pleasures when we know we’re working toward a certain goal.
We will always sacrifice something we value for that which we value more.
The greatest demonstration of this is in the life and death of Jesus. God’s perfect son was willing to come to this earth because he valued us more than his own life. Jesus wasn’t depressed, nor did he think little of himself, but we are that loved by God. The restoration of our relationship was of the utmost importance to him, so he willingly gave up his own rights and ultimately his life for us. He is the image of sacrifice and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can live sacrificially for others.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” 1 John 3:16 (NIV)
I’ve always struggled with this verse a bit, not just because it’s hard, but because I’m not quite sure how to practically apply it. I’m not going to take a bullet for somebody or rescue them from bodily harm. I’m not going to jump on a grenade or take the punishment for someone else. I’m just a regular person who works a white-collar job. While I can’t physically lay down my life for another, there are plenty of things I can lay down instead. But, instead of going through a long list, I just want to focus on one big thing today that’s really difficult to sacrifice: our preferences.
By laying down some of our preferences we can bless others and honor God.
I have many opinions about a lot of things. I’m not short on preferences and some of them are quite strange. When I go out, I like to sit with my back against the wall where I can see an exit. I prefer natural sunlight over overhead lighting and I like it to be as cold as possible, regardless of the season. Even at church, I have certain preferences: I have my preferred section to sit in, the songs that I really enjoy, and the speakers that I would prefer to hear.
But we can lay down our preferences for others. We can sacrifice our preference to have a luxury ____________ (fill in the blank) in order to give to another in need. To make them feel loved, we can choose to do what our friend or spouse or kid wants to do tonight instead of what we would prefer to do. Or maybe we sacrifice the convenience of a close parking spot at church so a guest can have a better experience.
There are so many ways that we can lay down our preferences in favor of others. Some are huge and some are minor, but I believe when we lay down our preferences for the good of someone else, God is glorified.
My heart breaks for that woman in the picture I saw on social media and I’m praying for her. But I’m also praying for us. I hope that we as the Church are able to look at the world around us, not as a way to get more, but as an opportunity to serve. Living a sacrificial life isn’t easy and most of the time I don’t want to do it, but it’s the way we’re called to live.
We were weak, lost, and completely without hope, and Jesus gave up his life for us, now his grace empowers us to do the same for others.
How can you lay down one preference today?
What does a “sacrificial life” look like to you?