Friday, January 4, 2008

Not My Will

A friend of mine has become fond of using the noble word 'sacrifice' since he started dating his girlfriend who lives in Rochester, NY. As in, "It's a 300 mile drive. But sometimes you have to sacrifice, you know?"

He's right, in a sense. But there's a part of me that also feels he's misappropriating the word, at least in this context. He is still in honeymood mode and knowing this particular friend, I'm sure driving 3,000 miles would not be a distance too far. He wants to see her, and when a man really wants to see a woman he will do just about anything to make that happen.

So in my mind yes, my friend driving five hours to see his girlfriend is a sacrifice on his part. But it doesn't really cost him anything besides gas, tolls, and a weekend with his friends--a small price to pay. Sacrifice more accurately described entails a giving up of something not easily parted with. I was going to write "easily or willingly," but that last part is not accurate, since true sacrifice must entail a free surrender of that which one could just as easily choose to retain. Soldiers leaving families to fight overseas sacrifice for their country. Wives whose husbands have been offered a job in a different part of the country sacrifice their plans to relocate the family. When a spouse is sick, the other makes sacrifices at their own expense to ensure the comfort of the other.

Jesus was always telling people to watch their motivations. He condemned self-serving actions that marauded as 'sacrifices' to Yahweh when he saw that they did not truly cost the person anything. A billionaire that donates $10,000 to a charity is not 'sacrificing;' he is giving of his abundance. And yet Jesus pointed to the widow and her musty mite as an example of what 'digging deep' looked like. Sometimes, though, money is the easiest thing to sacrifice; it is our malignant will that refuses to die. Jesus set the precedent for self-sacrifice--he was not skipping towards Golgotha, but was sweating blood the night before his death. He did not want to die but in obedience to God and for the salvation of humankind strung up his own will up on a cross beside him, splashing blood and writhing like a rabbit in a trap. He did what he did not want to do. That is sacrifice.

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