Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Small Sacrifice

A friend of mine wrote an e-mail with a keen observation that the idea of sacrifice is largely unexplored - or at least, under-explored - in Christian teaching and writing.  He noted that in our lives, every time we choose one thing, it involves forgoing something else (e.g., one cannot spend the entire winter skiing and go to school at the same time).  He also noted that many personal issues begin with an unwillingness to sacrifice something.

I wrote a few thoughts in response to his e-mail, which I want to post here for others to consider:

You've got some good thoughts here.  I see your point that the idea of sacrifice is perhaps underemphasized, yet it is a clear component of true Christian faith (as well as a reality of life in general, as you have noted).

There are two potential reasons I can think of which might explain this underemphasis in Christian writing/teaching:

1) Christians already get a bad rap for talking about "dos" and "don'ts" and the list of "fun" things that are "prohibited" (I'm using the language of many people, not necessarily what I would personally say).  To combat this, Christians may tend to steer clear of the idea of sacrifice.

2) Most of the time when we speak of the gospel message, we're emphasizing what we GAIN in a relationship with Christ, rather than what we GIVE UP.  That's partly because that emphasis is more attractive - yes - but it's also because when we truly comprehend all that Christ gives, we begin to see that the things we give up along the way were never worth much to begin with.

This is consistent with Jesus' parables about the treasure hidden in the field and the pearl of great value, recorded in Matthew 13:44-46:

"The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up.  Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it."  

In both cases, the men didn't even think about the cost, because they knew they were getting the bargain of their lives, so to speak.  What they gained was infinitely greater than the cost, even though it cost them everything they had.

Yes, there is a cost.  Yes, the cost is high.  Yes, there is sacrifice, as you've noted.  But - WOW! - the gain is so much better.  I'm not just talking about a future in heaven - that is great, but not the entire package deal.  I'm talking about daily joy and peace that nothing in this world can offer.  I'm talking about the vast treasure of getting to know the God of the universe, and to be able to talk to Him, and to have relationship with Him.  I'm talking about the awesomeness of His Holy Spirit at work within me each and every day.  These joys far outweigh any temporary pleasures the world may offer but which I've sacrificed to follow Christ.

And this goes back to your original observation.  Now that I have been a follower of Jesus for many years, I don't really think at all about what I have "sacrificed" or "given up."  I spend my thought time learning more about the Lord and about all He has for me.  So if you ask me about my relationship with Christ, I may not even remember to talk about the concept of sacrifice, because I have I have found the Treasure, or the Pearl, and that's what my mind is focused on, and what I want to tell others about.

Dear reader, what about you?  Have you realized that a relationship with Jesus Christ is worth far more than anything you might "sacrifice" to obtain it?  Yes, a relationship with Jesus will totally change many aspects of your life, but it's worth more than anything else in this world!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Just Say It!

Lately I have had a couple of situations in which I have been struck with the need to "just say it."  There are so many things that I want to say to people I care deeply about, but for crazy reasons I tend to hesitate, and those things end up not being said, or the moment to say them is lost.

Before I left for Africa in October, I had this foreboding sense that I might not return to see my family again.  I spent time writing notes to all of them, saying things that I wanted to be sure to communicate...just in case I might not return.  I wanted to tell my children I was proud of them.  I wanted my wife and daughters to know I think they are beautiful.  I wanted to encourage them all to persevere in their faith.  Even as I wrote those notes, I regretted not saying those things even earlier.

When I leave in the morning, I want to be sure to communicate my love to my wife and children.  When I have a moment to tell someone about my appreciation for them, I want to say that right then.  Too often I hesitate, but I'm glad for the moments when I just say it.  With God's help, I will do this even more often.

Is there something you just need to say to someone today?  Perhaps you need to write a note of encouragement to someone.  Perhaps you need to forgive someone, and tell them so.  Perhaps you need to make a phone call to re-connect with someone.  It's not too late: "Just Say It."