Today we’re going to talk about something difficult.
Today we’re going to talk about sacrifice.
Sacrifice is hard to talk about for three reasons: first, because it can be taken to an unhealthy and exploitative extreme, second, because we don’t want to do it ourselves, and third, because it’s hard to accept on our own behalf. We’ll work our way through these problems with sacrifice one at a time.
Sacrifice is what our lessons are about today.
It is described in a vivid, elegant and emotive phrase.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep,” Jesus says.
In our text from 1 John, we read, “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us– and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.”
What does it mean to lay down one’s life for another?
In the most basic and obvious sense, it means to die.
But not just to die randomly and pointlessly, but to die with purpose.
To lay down one’s life for someone is to voluntarily accept death that another might live.
That is terrifying to imagine.
Our lives are what we defend most aggressively.
There are few biological instincts more powerful than simple self-preservation.
The will to live is built into our very DNA, our primitive lizard brains will take over to help us defend ourselves in case of danger.
To lay down one’s life for another is to override one’s own humanity for something greater.
It is to defeat biology for an abstract idea.
Paul recognizes how difficult it is. In Romans, he says, “Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die.”
And Jesus says, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
It is never something that happens by accident.
It is a choice, and it is a choice with a cost. Continue reading