Mick’s Memo-The Incongruous Virtue of Sacrifice
I’m writing this on the 75th anniversary of D-Day. The world we live in today, though flawed, is a far better place than what Adolf Hitler or the Japanese Empire had planned for it. Over 200000 risked their lives in battle on land and sea, over 4000 paid the ultimate price in addition to over 10000 wounded. On the opposite side of the globe a few days later, over 70000 Marines and soldiers landed on Saipan where another 10000 were wounded and over 3000 were killed. They were all scared, all had reasons to avoid risk and all chose to prioritize something bigger than themselves. I am always moved and even somewhat chastened by the level of bravery and selflessness that they demonstrated. I wonder if I or many in our era would be able to follow their example. I have seen recent glimpses of it. Responding to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 there were thousands who bravely served and sacrificed in a desire to enhance the security of innocent people.
We human beings have an instinctual desire to nurture, preserve and serve our own interests. Our culture tends to fan that flame of self-focus. Sacrifice is learned. But military people and first responders are not the only ones who learn this virtue. Parents sacrifice their convenience, sleep, resources and other preferred pursuits to provide for and enrich the lives of children. Spouses in a healthy marriage often defer for the benefit of one another, sometimes caring for an ailing spouse for years. Followers of Jesus, for two millennia, have cared for sufferers of contagious diseases, given away food, clothing and shelter to the poor; and gone to live among remote and primitive people groups in order to demonstrate and declare the good news about Jesus.
Sacrifice is not usually asking us to die, though it could mean that. Most of the time sacrifice calls us to divert our time, resources and actions to something or someone other than our own interest. It may be a neighbor facing a grim diagnosis, a co-worker with a child that is careening out of control on a path of destruction, a relative that is aging and in need of more care, or a host of other situations that cross our network of relationships. We’re confronted with a decision about values and an exercise in overcoming our “natural bent” toward self.
Jesus highlighted this virtue to the disciples in the later stages of their learning process with Him. He had been warning them about His impending arrest and death, but they weren’t getting it. The narrative is found in Mark’s 10th chapter. Two of their key leaders were debating their right to “perks” for being part of Jesus’ leadership team. Naturally the rest of the team felt slighted and competitive, so they jumped on them. Jesus interrupted their debate with a radical redefinition of what God is looking for in His influencers…
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45 (NIV)
I imagine a long silence followed. No clarifying questions were needed or recorded. God is looking for influencers who influence with sacrifice rather than power plays and perks. It was not natural to them and it’s not natural to us. We must learn it, hone it and maintain it. It involves submitting ourselves to a cause and source of authority beyond self on a daily, even moment by moment basis. But the results are truly transformational. Sacrifice is the path to eternal legacy.
Seventy-five years after the sacrificial acts of brave heroes, we are still reaping the benefits. If you think back to those who have most profoundly influenced you; they were sacrificial people. We all face the choice of foregoing benefits for self to give benefits to others. Jesus’ teaching here tells me He is looking for us to do just that. When we do, He is pleased and glorified by our following His example.
Looking forward to seeing you this weekend both Sunday morning and Sunday evening at 6:30PM for our Information Meeting. God has been blessing us in amazing ways, and I look forward to celebrating some of them with you!