Sacrifice can mean anything—thus, it sometimes means nothing. It can mean forgoing that piece of chocolate cake so that you can fit in those jeans again. It can mean getting rid of lattes for a month to support the education and welfare of a child halfway across the globe. It can mean laying down your life for someone you do not even know or for a concept, like freedom or justice. Any word that is elastic enough to embrace the mundane and the momentous is bound to be misunderstood. Sacrifice is an ambiguous concept. But it is not flowery. It is not a dandelion that can be blown any direction we please. Sacrifice is an anchored reality. It is a particular thing that one gives up for some other more beautiful reality. And further, we believe that there was one sacrifice that is the paradigm for all sacrifice; and it happened in the first century in an occupied country to a peasant without a home.
But it was brutal. Jesus gives up his last breath for a humanity that wouldn’t give him a second thought. And it was beautiful. He did this so that people could both be embraced by the God of everything and live a life that is compelling to the world and pleasing to God. The brutality and the beauty of the cross collide in a cataclysmic moment that makes all of our sacrifices both possible and pale in comparison to his.
At the Clinic, we talk about the sacrifices we make, but we always try to do it in the context of the sacrifice that was made. As Christians, we understand that Jesus combined both aspects of sacrifice: he sacrificed (verb), but he was also the sacrifice (noun). We know that our sacrifice is analogous to his, but only the whisper of an analogy, a breath on the mirror of a resemblance to Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice.
But the sacrifice is not the end. The sacrifice of the latte is forgotten when you receive your first letter from the sponsored child. The pain of childbirth is forgotten when the baby is placed in your arms—or so I’m told. Even Jesus considered the Roman cross of no moment, “scorning its shame” when it was placed in comparison to the “joy that was set before him” (Hebrews 12:2).
That is the nature of every sacrifice we make. It hurts in the present, but it is the price of wondrous future. Jesus endured the cross for the future of creating a people out of many nations and races. His vision of that reality propelled him through the dramatic shame of the cross.
May you be emboldened by the vision of a better reality within God’s kingdom to sacrifice, to be a sacrifice, and to rejoice in the hope of that future.
Until Justice and Peace embrace,