22 October 2009
So, a few years ago I was challenged by a definition of sacrifice that has had me scratching my head since.
sacrifice: giving up something of great value for something of lesser value
This gives a greater understanding of Christ's sacrifice for us (the righteous for the unrighteous, God for man, the Prince of Glory for sinners), but on another level, it brings up so many questions! With this definition, is it truly possible for us to sacrifice anything for Christ? What we give up is worth so much less than what we gain, that is it truly any kind of sacrifice? Yet, we are clearly told that God delights in our sacrifices. This has been a great puzzlement.
We discussed I Peter 2:1-5 with a small group of folks from church and the confusion began to be cleared away. Drew and I discussed it more as we drove home and I think I've got a much better handle on it.
I think there's a place for the above definition on a horizontal level, and when we think of the Lord sacrificing himself for us, but it falls short when we think vertically in an upward direction.
Horizontally: we must ask ourselves if we're really sacrificing when we want to think we are. If a mother says that she sacrificed her career for her children, isn't she really saying that her career was the more important of the two? If I claim to sacrifice my time in order to educate my children, aren't I really valuing my time above my children? Am I proud of my sacrifices? Hmmm … questions to consider.
Vertically: the sacrifice the Lord demands of us isn't based on any kind of valuation of what's offered (that's because of his grace in receiving our meager, dirty-rag offerings, not because our offerings are so high and valuable). Rather it's based on the fact that, biblically, sacrifices are dedicated totally to the Lord. When we're told to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, Paul isn't implying that we're more important that what we get in return, relationship with the Lord and the opportunity to glorify him; rather that we should wholly devote ourselves to serving and glorifying the Lord. It's about whole-hearted dedication, devotion, and passion for Christ.
And, to loosely paraphrase John Piper, as we serve Christ, we also enjoy him, which brings him the most glory.