Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Meaning of Sacrifice

It's a funny thing; I looked up the word "sacrifice" on dictionary.com, and could not find a perfect definition.  I found plausible working definitions, but not a perfect definition.
The best definition there was the third.
"the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirablefor the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim."
I can't wrap my head around the idea of "higher or more pressing claim."   That implies giving something to get something, doesn't it?

I think the perfect definition of sacrifice is more of a model than a traditional definition. 

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life."  John 3:16  New American Bible

And there we have described the most perfect sacrifice, offered for the best possible reason:  love.  God doesn't get anything out of it, does He?  He sacrifices the greatest treasure EVER, for the only reason worthy of Him:  love.

 He did  not act out of obligation.  God was in no way obligated to us, at least not until He gave us His own word that He would send us a savior.  He did not act to fill in some sort of void in His own life:   being God, He is complete in and of Himself.   But He LOVES us, so therefore, He sacrificed what is most precious for us.

I have just finished reading a novel by Beth Pattillo titled Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart.  (No, this is not a "Christian book".  It's not an Unchristian book either.)  The setting of the novel is Oxford, at a summer session workshop on Pride and Prejudice.  Through the course of the novel, she realizes that she has spent her life sacrificing for others, not so much out of love, or even obligation, as she does to fill in the void left when her parents died.  She is so busy sacrificing for her sister (who no longer needs her to make these sacrifices), and later her boyfriend, that she hasn't developed her own talents, or discovered her own purpose in life.

Now, I'd be the last person to suggest that say, Mother Theresa, was unfulfilled because she spent her whole life serving others.   I would suggest she was actually fulfilled because she loved Christ, and that love gave her purpose, a purpose she sacrificed for...   Love filled a void, not sacrifice.   Sacrifice is an act of love.

And sooner or later, true love requires sacrifice.    Love for a child has caused parents to sacrifice their own future financial security for their child's well being.   Love for a parent or relative has inspired some to sacrifice their time.   Love for country has motivated soldiers to sacrifice their lives.  Love prompts us to meet someone else's need, even when it has a dear cost.

Tomorrow I will post more on love and sacrifice, and how it relates to the concept of Lent.  

Today's post is being link to Peter Pollock's blog, on his post One Word Blog Carnival Post on Sacrifice


Glynn said...

I like that third definition, too. I was a beneficiary of the sacrifice that definition is all about. Good post, Helen.

katdish said...

I did the same thing, Helen. I looked up several definitions and none of them seemed to fit. "Love filled the void, not sacrifice." - That's such a powerful statement. Wow.

Anne Lang Bundy said...

I really like the idea that sacrifice involves a pre-existing claim that God has on my life. And if I'm willing to remember that, then I can think of all the sacrifices that I make "for others" (who may or may not have a claim on me) as really being sacrifices for God.

(Which is a thought I really need for today, in particular.)

seekingpastor said...

Yes--John 3:16--the perfect model of sacrifice.

A Joyful Noise said...

Sacrifice NOT out of obligation is what Jesus did for us. Not my will but thine be done were his words in the garden. I wonder if some of us give of ourselves out of fear that we will be punished if we do not sacrifice. May we willing serve the Lord freely with gladness because He is rejoicing over us with pleasure.

Annie K said...

It's hard to imagine that I've ever truly sacrificed according to how we see sacrifice in the bible. Great post Helen - lots to think about.

Anonymous said...

So good, Helen. He had no obligation, but His love provided the sacrifice. Freely we've received, freely we must give... Thank you.

Mari-Anna Frangén Stålnacke said...

I agree John 3:16 is the best definition of sacrifice. Thank you so much! Blessings!

Loni said...

We certainly do get a picture of sacrifice with our children - and then the picture of us as HIS child.

Thank you for sharing!