Let’s face it; the idea of sacrifice is somewhat foreign to most of us. In one of the groups I’m in, we were studying the temple in ancient Israel, and the idea of slaughtering all those animals for God is something that we had trouble wrapping our heads around. But if I disregard the grotesqueness of the practice and focus on the meaning, then sacrifice is a big deal. I can see why it was so important.
I don’t think I do it that often—sacrifice I mean. I can go without things. I can rearrange things so that, in the end, while I’m giving something up or forgoing something, I can still get a substitute. It may be lesser in value, quality, desire, whatever, but…the point is that there is abundance here and in most of our lives. Giving up on something that isn’t attainable isn’t really a sacrifice either. I mean I can’t really claim that I’m sacrificing my new Lamborghini while driving my gas-hog of an SUV. I don’t have unblemished livestock that I’ve taken time and resources to raise only to turn over to God. Money may be the current livestock of God’s people. But even that seems not as tangible.
What if I considered surrender to be a sacrifice? No substitutes. Surrender is giving in, being done and turning over. Whatever the definition, it is an act of letting something go, with the intention of never returning. Giving first fruits is different for each of us. What is not different is the surrendering of things that we will miss. So during this Lenten season, I’m struck by how much I don’t focus on Christ’s sacrifice. Skipping right over the greatest sacrifice or surrender one can give—His life—in favor of the resurrection and conquering of death and sin. Believe what you will, as there are many flavors, but what is certain is that Jesus died and died in a bad way. Now that was and is a sacrifice.
It is uncomfortable. I tend not to think about what my response to that sacrifice is or should be. Yet that is at the core of this thing called grace. Some days I can’t think about it. I’m too human and selfish, all absorbed with things and feelings that don’t matter but at the time consume me with great importance. Other days I get an insight or glimpse as to what that grace is and what Jesus really did for me. Very few days, I’m stopped. I feel this wellspring of what I can only say is poignant emotion; a wave of heaviness up through my gut. And I’m so reminded of the love of God and surrender of life for me that I’m simply struck. In these moments, I know what it means to be surrendered—to feel the grace of God. It is these moments that give me a sense of responsibility to respond. It is these moments that fuel me to give back, to feel outside myself, to recognize the tremendous need for grace in the world. Not obligation, but desire; from the heart, not the head.
It is like I said, not too often. Not unlike my gas-hog of a SUV, the world definitely zaps my spark of response. I still serve and do, but more with my head than heart. It’s in this zone that I can get resentful, feel magnanimous, judge other’s response to the same grace that arrested me sometime before. I want my walk to be more purposefully focused on increasing my capability to recognize, feel and respond to the remarkable sacrifice Jesus made. I want to sacrifice my selfishness and cleave away my disregard and intolerance of God’s children. UGH! The more I think about it, giving up a pigeon may be the way to go.