[As written on 1/17-18/12, edited 012812]
“The universe is so vast and so ageless that the life of one man can only be justified by the measure of his sacrifice.” ~ RAF Flying Officer Vivian Rosewarne, shot down on 31 May 1940
All this talk of sacrifices…but I don’t sacrifice. Not really. If I did I would be out of my comfort zone, doing things I don’t want to do. As it is, I sacrifice…in my comfort zone. I sacrifice my time (not wasting time with insignificant things that don’t edify me or others), talent (use my strengths and skills to bring others closer to God), treasure (only buy what is necessary and give the rest to the ministry), body (rebel against the lusts of my flesh) and relationships (don’t let anyone become more of a priority over God, or get in the way of my calling). I sacrifice it to make the biggest impact I can possibly make…..and yet still manage to achieve my own desires, interests, and dreams. Still somehow keep my hands from getting dirty.
A wise man once said “If I even sacrifice my body to the flames, but have not love, I am nothing.” Equally in my case, if I rock the world to its core, but have not love… I am nothing.
I sacrifice my time, talent and treasure to use it for things other than indulging my selfish desires, but even then I’m using them to do something I enjoy doing. So then, is that really sacrifice? Is it that much of a sacrifice to choose not to indulge in fleshly stimulation at all times? I put all my time, talent, and treasure towards a ministry, but it’s a ministry I enjoy doing. So is it really sacrifice?
It’s easy to sacrifice physical things within your comfort zone that you have easy access to like money and food; what’s hard to sacrifice is the intangible, things like your embarrassment and weaknesses. Standing up to defend Jesus’ name or Christianity. Making that first embarrassing detour in the conversation to culturally-awkward topics like religion. Amidst your jam-packed schedule to ask someone if they need help with something or engaging them in conversation. On your day off to look for ways to serve others. Or forcing yourself to smile. Or giving up your spiritual gifts to serve in the area which happens to need the most help right in front of you, as awkward as it is. Or even physical things like fatigue and pain. These are the hindrances of true sacrifice.
Who really does sacrifice then?
The first thing that pops up in my mind when I think of total sacrifice, or the ultimate surrender to God, is the missionary. Surely a missionary who leaves behind all luxury and family and cultural comfort behind to pursue the selfless goal of fulfilling God’s neglected command to preach the Gospel to those most desperate for it. Yet what missionary doesn’t enjoy what he does? What missionary doesn’t feel the unparalleled, divine joy that comes from joining the ranks of the apostles in being obedient to God’s greatest command and fulfilling their meaning of life? Are there really missionaries out there writhing in misery right now, guilt-tripped into the mission field, and merely riding on the fumes of conviction to keep them going? If so, I’ve never heard of them, even if their missionary journey doesn’t bare evident fruit.
Perhaps we should let the missionaries speak for themselves. What would the most sacrificial of missionaries say on the subject? Fortunately for this essay’s sake, one of the most famous missionaries was asked about his sacrifice. To which Dr. David Livingstone replied:
“People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. . . . Is that a sacrifice which brings its own blest reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter? Away with the word in such a view, and with such a thought! It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger, now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice.”
Wow. I’m reminded of the passage that “coincidentally” came up today as I’m in the process of reading through the whole Bible chronologically. Luke 17: 7: “Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’? 8 But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink’? 9 He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? 10 So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’”
So what then is the ultimate sacrifice?
100% sacrifice would be something like voluntarily going to jail or dying for no cause, where you can’t enjoy anything, nor do anything good which might bring you joy. That’s the ultimate sacrifice. And also that which God abhors.
As it turns out, “sacrifice” in reality is a relative term that requires a balance to be useful, much like the rest of Christianity. For if you truly sacrificed everything you possibly could, you wouldn’t be doing any good. God has called us all to be living sacrifices and yet I believe that in fulfilling that divine charge of making the greatest impact you can possibly make you will experience the greatest possible joy.