by Linda Rex
This morning I was reading about the spiritual discipline of sacrifice. I got to thinking about how so many of us love hearing stories about people who put themselves at risk for the sake of an animal or another person. These are the kind of stories that go viral on the Web—everybody loves a hero.
The thing is—there wouldn’t be heroes if there weren’t people who were willing to sacrifice something, including their own life and well-being, for the sake of someone else. But where does this willingness to lay down our lives and our well-being for another come from?
It is my belief that such a heart and mind is not something we drum up out of our own humanness. Really, our natural tendency is not to sacrifice but to self-protect and be self-absorbed not self-sacrificing. I mean, really—if you or I were asked to give our month’s salary away so that someone who is homeless could live somewhere, would we do it?
We’re happy to give if it doesn’t cost us anything. But what if it cost us something, cost us a lot, maybe even cost us everything? Would we do it? Speaking for myself—I have a long way to go to be truly self-sacrificing.
I believe that this heart of self-sacrifice and service is something that comes from outside of ourselves. It is the heart of the God who made us. And we all share in that Spirit of self-sacrifice that was expressed in his gift of his Son Jesus to all humanity.
When I see a mother daily sacrifice her hopes and dreams, her possibility of a meaningful career, for the sake of caring for her disabled or special needs child—I see the heart of the Father. This is the Spirit of self-sacrifice that is a beautiful reflection of God’s perichoretic love—making room for another within the family circle at tremendous cost to oneself.
When I see a spouse tenderly visit and care for his or her mate each day even though the loved one has forgotten who he or she is, I see the tender and faithful love of God at work. This expression of love in the face of forgetfulness or rejection has its roots in the patient, longsuffering and faithful love of God, who never turns us away even though we may turn away from him.
I was reading a story this morning about a soldier who put his life at risk during the Vietnam War to care for a Vietnamese woman’s child in the middle of combat. What would drive a solder to lay down his or her life in this way? This Spirit of self-sacrifice has its roots in the nature of God who is love. It is an expression of the heart of the God who was willing to lay aside his divinity so that he could share in our humanity and reconcile our self-centered, selfish nature with his at tremendous cost to himself.
When faced with different options in life, the question occurs to me—will I take the high road? Will I do the difficult thing? Will I risk anything, maybe even risk all, for the sake of another? Will I do something that will cost me something, maybe even everything? Or will I take the easy road?
I think Robert Frost had it right. To take the untraveled road, the more difficult path is the better choice. It is the choice inspired by the One who has given us the power of choice. With our gift of free will, will we take the high road, the road of sacrifice? Or will we continue in the cyclonic black hole of self-absorption and self-centeredness? May God grant us the grace to take the high road in every circumstance in which it is needed.
Lord, thank you for always choosing to do the hard thing whenever necessary. Grant us your heart of service and self-sacrifice so that we may be an accurate reflection of your divine perichoretic love. We need your grace in this as in everything. Thank you that it is there for us in Jesus. Amen.
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:12–13 NIV