“the act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy ”
Sacrifice is an action. It isn’t something we should sit around talking about, it is something that needs to be acted upon. It is an action of giving; taking something that you have, and either passing it on or putting it down. And this thing that you pass on or put down cannot be a thing that is easy to give over; that is not a sacrifice. Sacrifice is giving up something that you care about, something that is important to you, it giving up something that is close to you.
Therefore to do this, to give up, or to give on, is going to be hard. It is going to be something that is costly to you. This is because the things that we value can come to be a definition of you…
And a sacrifice means to giving these things up for the advantage of something else. We sacrifice something that we highly value in exchange for something is regarded as more important, more worthy in our life. It’s giving up the things we regard as ‘good’ in exchange for the things we regard as ‘best’. Sacrifice is about taking a risk, it’s about letting something hurt, so in exchange for the pain we can see something flourish.
When there is an act of true sacrifice, it cannot be something that is done out of guilt, or a sense of moral obligation. While there may be a sacrifice for it, is it being done for pure aims? Or are you just doing begrudgingly? A true personal sacrifice has to come our of a genuine regard for the other thing.
There are so many questions that come from the concept of sacrifice, there are so many different responses that you can have. The biggest ones for me, right now, are what do I regard as important or worthy? What are the things either in my life, or around my life, that are worthing sacrificing for? And then following on from that is the question of what will it take? For the sake of something else what do I need to do to get there?
I love the example of Mary, sister of Martha, in John’s gospel (John 12:1-7) who sacrifices perfume of great value to honour Jesus before he dies. But she sacrifices more than just this expensive perfume; Mary gets down on her knees and with her hair wipes Jesus’ feet clean. It is in this sacrifice of more than just financial worth, it is a sacrifice of comfort, of dignity, and in this she shows not just devotion to Jesus by the perfume, but willingness to be humbly serve before him.
Mary knew that Jesus wasn’t always going to be with them, and she knew the privilege that she had to be with him. She saw what she had; not just in terms of financial worth, but it terms of what she could do and gave it up for Jesus.
Jesus has made the ultimate sacrifice, giving all he had because he saw me as important and worthy, how does that impact how I live? How do I follow Mary’s example in my life? In the letter to the Romans, Paul writes that in the light of Jesus’ sacrifice and as a result of the mercy shown to us we should become ‘living sacrifices’ because this is how we can truly worship and honour him.
In giving riches and dignity Mary’s shows us sacrifice. We have so much, more than just the financial or the things we own, we treasure our time, we store up our talents, we have our dreams and aspirations, and these are not wrong things to have… but are we willing to sacrifice them for something more important?
This year for lent I'm participating in something called 'Relentless Acts of Sacrifice' which is all about thinking about what sacrifice means now. One of the things that I've been thinking about, something that I don't do enough, is spending time praying for people or situations. It's not that I haven't tried to do more of it before, but it is something that I find very hard to bring in to my daily routine. I walk to work every day now, and I'm accompanied by music in my well loved ear phones to while away the 30/40 minute walk to work. So this lent that is what I'm going to sacrifice; I'm giving up my earphones so that I can spend the time in prayer.
I want to leave you with a couple of questions: