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Apr 22, 2011

Sacrificial Love

Who would you be willing to die for? Would you give up your life for someone else? If so, for whom and under what circumstances? Have you ever really thought through these questions? Sometimes we throw about expressions too easily like “I would die for my country” or “I’d take a bullet for you, man.” But do we really consider what it means to willingly sacrifice our life for another and if we might actually be willing to do such a thing?

Paul considered this in his letter to the Roman church. In Romans 5:7 he notes that “one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die…” Not to give mankind too much praise for our selflessness, he only begrudgingly acknowledges that we might die for someone, but only if we consider them a good person. But how far would our love extend to others?

Most of us can picture dying for our closest loved ones if called to do so. What loving parent wouldn’t jump between their child and a wild animal about to attack them? Wouldn’t most husbands use their own body as a shield if someone pulled a gun on his wife? And of course, soldiers, police officers, and firemen willingly endanger themselves for strangers every day, but even they try hard to avoid dying in the line of duty.

But have you noticed that you can’t get a heart transplant from someone until they die? There just aren’t enough living donors willing to give up their beating heart so someone else can live. Even in the movie John Q, where Denzel Washington’s character was willing to do exactly that to save his young son with a failing heart, the other characters debated wildly whether he was crazy over his child or just plain crazy. What was so touching in that movie was that someone was actually willing to die so someone they loved could live.

The sad truth is, most of us would not be willing to give up our lives for someone else except in very rare circumstances, and most likely only for those closest to us. We barely even offer our time or service or possessions to our fellow man, let alone give our lives to them. Whether due to our fear, selfishness, or apathy, most of us aren’t likely to sacrifice our lives for others.

On this Good Friday, thank God that he didn’t let any such barriers keep him from giving himself for us. Thank God the Father for being willing to sacrifice his only Son in order for us to be with him. Thank Jesus Christ that he didn’t let his own fear, his rights to his place in Heaven, or the temptations of men and the devil keep him from willing laying down his perfect life to pay for our sins. Ask the Holy Spirit today to help us appreciate what was done on our behalf and remind us of who we are as a result. Paul continues in Roman 5:8, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Sometimes we might lose our appreciation for the sacrifice Christ made because we don’t apply it personally. After all, Jesus came to pay for the sins of the world, right? We say this as if his sacrifice is somehow less remarkable, like almost anyone would give up their life to save millions. But don’t undervalue the sacrifice God made for us. The death of Jesus was the most unjust and undeserved death in history. His humiliation, betrayal, abandonment, and pain were unparalleled. And the love that he showed for us was beyond what any sinful human, even the most loving parent or spouse, could ever muster at their most unselfish best.

And don’t forget the most important part. Even though the blood of Christ is applied to many, it’s still applied to you as an individual believer. When Jesus prayed for his elect in the garden, he was praying for each one of us given to him by the Father. When Jesus hung in agony on the cross, he paid for each and every sin for every one of his sheep. When we face our final judgment and our names are called out, Jesus himself will defend each of us who have called him Lord and declare our sins are forgiven thanks to his loving sacrifice on our behalf.

The Kutless song “Sea of Faces” reminds me of this too. Consider these words today as you thank Jesus for the sacrifice he made for you personally.
If only my one heart
Was all you'd gain from all it cost
Well I know you would have still been a man
With a reason
To willingly offer your life

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