Hello everyone. Rob here. I was asked to speak about sacrifice last Sunday. Here’s an excerpt.
Paul tells us in Romans 12:1 to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God for that is a pleasing to God and a true act of worship. When we give ourselves wholeheartedly over to Jesus we learn to see with his eyes, hear with his ears, speak with his words and value what he values. We see that people matter more than wealth and possessions; community matters more than the individual and love matters more than status or honour. Selling what you have and giving to the poor looks like a sacrifice to some, but when you have had your eyes opened to the kingdom, opened to the new creation, opened to the infinite value of every human being, it looks like common sense. It makes sense that participating in the life of God’s kingdom looks different to participating in the kingdom of the world or the kingdom of darkness. When the king of that kingdom is someone who has given their life for humanity on the cross, the way of selfless love makes seven more sense. Do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature, Paul writes in Galatians 5:13, rather serve one another in love. It is this serving one another in love that sacrifice in Christ’s community looks like.
So, the big question is, how are we doing on that? This isn’t about selling fields or farms, charity giving or even church donations; it’s about our ability, our willingness and our capacity to love others in the name of Jesus. Here’s a little secret about the early church. They didn’t sustain this selfless lifestyle for very long. Soon the Greek-speaking Jews and the Hebrew speaking Jews were in conflict. The Jerusalem church needed the financial help of the wider church because no one had any assets anymore. When the Gentiles started joining the church there was major division and we all know the Corinthian church had a very serious divide between rich and poor. In other words, sustaining a life of selfless love is flipping hard.
Why is that? It’s easy to beat ourselves up in this area. I don’t pray enough, I don’t read my Bible enough, I’m too selfish, I don’t know how to love and so on. A lot of this has come from our theology that has always focused on original sin rather than original glory. Before the serpent conned our ancestors into focusing on what they couldn’t have, rather than the abundance they did have, we were glorious. Made in the image of God, together we were created to rule in God’s name and to reflect his love to the world. That’s what Jesus came to restore. That’s what the redemption project is all about. When we lose sight of the image of God in ourselves and each other then we lose our capacity to love.
And boy, does this world take a toll on the eyes of our heart; on our Spirit-led sight. Ukraine, nasty politics, bad drivers, gangs, rude neighbours, pastors who don’t say or do what we want them to do or say, all take a toll on our sight. And the reality is if we are harbouring any kind of grudge, holding any unforgiveness in your heart, any resentment or bitterness then our ability to love selflessly is severely compromised. This is because we have shut part of our hearts off from God’s gracious yet unflinching love.
But here’s another secret. It’s meant to be hard. If it wasn’t hard we wouldn’t pray, we wouldn’t seek God’s help and we would try and love with God’s love in our own strength. How do you think that’s going to work out? It won’t! You might fake it for a while but it is utterly unsustainable. My last pastoring job did not end well. There were a lot of people to forgive, to give back to God, to release from my annoyance, anger and resentment. I was able to do it, mostly I think, through practicing forgiveness as I went, naming the hurt and pain, giving myself over to God and choosing to keep loving God. The Spirit is always inviting us to love God and receive God’s love. That interaction then flows into loving our neighbour and even, loving our enemy. When we love and are loved by God that’s when we see what he sees and we learn to love with his love. It’s not your love. It’s God’s so let it in. Take a moment right now and breathe in God’s love.
Grace and peace everyone.