Sacrifice

I sit here on this Christmas Eve wondering what sacrifice really means. Wondering how it truly feels to put the interests of someone else above your own. Wondering how God felt when He sent Jesus to be our Savior. It’s an abstract concept to some. They’ve never seen anyone sacrifice for them. They’ve never been taught to sacrifice for others. But, even if the lessons have been taught, understanding what God did for us at Christmas and at Easter can be hard even for the most giving of us. We think we have to do something to earn the grace spoken of in Ephesians 2:8-9. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” We can’t see this grace so it’s hard to be conscious of it. 

But, we can see other people who claim to be believers. Should we expect to see sacrifice from them? Should we expect them to demonstrate Jesus’ words from John 13:34-35? “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” If people could see this love and willingness to sacrifice in us, it would be easier to see the love God has for us. It would be concrete. But, do they? Do they see this love and willingness to sacrifice in us? Sad to say, more often than not, they don’t. They see people in the church who are just as selfish as people who are not in the church. They see things like the prosperity gospel taught. They see us, and they see nothing different from the world around them.

In case you’re wondering, I count myself in that total. I can be just as selfish as the person who has rejected Jesus or the person who has never heard of Him. I reflect His love imperfectly, if at all. And it’s made me wonder what sacrifice really means. I wonder a lot if you haven’t figured it out already. 🙂 As a writer, the words I write and the words I read have an impact on my life. They help me to understand things that my brain alone has trouble understanding. It’s how I understand the world. Even the TV shows I watch can have this effect if I’ve already been wondering about something. 

With that being said, I want to tell you a story about a TV show that brought me to a deeper understanding of sacrifice. It wasn’t a Christian show, but it still had the same effect. Let me set the stage. I am a fan of science fiction. It shows me a world of  possibilities different from what I see in real life. Anyway, in the last few weeks,  I’ve been watching the most recent season of a particular show which features a group of people who have traveled back in time to save the world. They want to prevent their future from ever happening. Now, they weren’t altruistic all of the time. They did things for their own benefit to protect those they had come to love. They were imperfect just like those of us who are believers, and they had to go through many difficulties in the episodes I watched including death. In the last two episodes, one character was killed because he had prevented a nuclear explosion, and another was killed because she was trying to prevent the bad guys from getting the information inside her head. (Yes, this is the kind of TV I like to watch. 🙂 ) I’m guessing you probably realize the team was in turmoil at this point. Then, the leader of the team said something that has stuck with me through several viewings of the final episode. He had the opportunity to go further back in time to hopefully correct some of the mistakes they had made. When one of the other characters expressed doubts he could do so, he said, “Well, maybe I can give the years back to someone else.” His statement nagged me for a bit, and I had to watch the episode again to get it, like I said. He was willing to live the years again so other people could be happy with no benefit to him. It’s the truest example of sacrifice I had even seen on television. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. I know those were all scripted words. But, wow! Those characters showed sacrifice to me. From the man who reached for nuclear material without a second thought to the woman who shot herself in the head so the bad guys wouldn’t win to the man who went further back in time, they were all representative of sacrifice to me. I had to think about what this meant in my own life and with my own faith. 

I came up with some things I want to share. For me, sacrifice is standing in the background and letting someone else serve. Sacrifice is accepting you may not matter to some people and loving them anyway. Sacrifice is knowing what you do might not matter until you are gone, but doing it anyway. Sacrifice is being the person you are, the person God made, and only focusing on what He wants and no one else. Sacrifice is accepting His call no matter where it may take you. Sacrifice is giving everything you are to the one who made you. Isn’t that what Jesus did for us? 

Merry Christmas! 

Generous With Our Homes

In the years of our marriage, we’ve done very little entertaining in our home for many reasons. First, many times our home wasn’t big enough. When we started homeschooling twelve years ago, we knew our homes would be small from then on. In fact, since then, we’ve lived in apartments and town homes with only one house thrown in during that time. It doesn’t bother us or our kids, but having people over tends to be more difficult the smaller a person’s home is. Second, we’ve felt self-conscious, or at least, I did. Because of the choices we had made about educating our kids, we didn’t have a lot of money and didn’t think people would like spending time with us because of it. And finally, we haven’t opened our home a lot because we tend to be introverts. We walk into our home and expect it to be a shelter from a world which has become dark. We want to be by ourselves until the next time we have to go out and be a part of the world again.

We’ve used these reasons for years only opening our home when our kids wanted to have people over or when I’ve wanted to invite special children over. (Children tend to not be as judgmental as adults are.) We’ve also found bigger spaces to have eighteenth birthday parties for our sons because we knew we wouldn’t have enough space to host all the people they wanted to invite.

But, God wants us to open our homes to others no matter how much we have, and I’m just now realizing this might be a good thing for me. When I was younger, people opened their homes to me. There was one family in particular, while I was in college, who have always made me feel like I was a part of their family. They are family to me, and I am family to them. I’ve always tried to pay that hospitality forward, but not as much in my home as I possibly could have. And I’ve realized that needs to change. The Bible verse the author used in today’s devotion and her words themselves particularly touched me. First, here is Hebrews 13:16 from the Message version of the Bible. “Make sure you don’t take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others. God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship–a different kind of “sacrifice”–that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets.” I believe making that sacrifice will lessen the loneliness of the people I come in contact with and will in turn lessen my loneliness. The author of the devotion agrees. “But brave people recognize that they can use their home to love others with the love of Christ. Brave people are generous with their homes. Brave people share–even their sanctuaries–with others.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs)

So, will all that, my husband and I have been cleaning and re-organizing in preparation for the hospitality we want to begin. I’ve been walking towards the bravery required to make the invitations. God is giving me courage as I’m considering taking the first steps out of my comfort zone with regard to my home. Hopefully, we will be able to show God’s love to the people who enter our home like my friends did all those years ago with me and like God wants us to do today. Praying for all of us as we consider how God wants us to be generous with all the aspects of our lives!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!