Poor little Sacrifice, I found him moping around in the closet where I keep all the old church words, words that we don't use much anymore. His clothes were covered with dust. His hair was filled with cobwebs. I found poor little Sacrifice in a group therapy session with other old words that have fallen out of favor. They were all sitting around feeling sorry for themselves. Words like Commitment. I mean, in an era of prenuptial agreements, living together, $99 divorce, and hooking up, Commitment seems a bit outdated too. I tell you; it's a sad place, my closet for old church words. All these proud words, significant words, holy words, words that used to carry so much power and significance and cachet, and none of them were any worse off than Sacrifice.
I pulled him out of the therapy session, and he was crying, poor little fellow. I said, "Sacrifice, what's the matter?" He poured out his heart to me. He said, "The only time I ever get any use at all, for heaven's sake, is baseball. I mean, somebody lays down a bunt, usually pitchers, for heaven's sake, and that's the only light of day I see. Doesn't anybody know where I come from, that I'm from a great family? My parents were Sacra, “sacred”, and Facere, “make”, “to make sacred”, sacrifice. Great lineage, I have. Sacrifice, to give up something valuable for the sake of something else. I'm a holy word. I'm the Church's Hall of Fame word. And now everybody's embarrassed by me." It was sad.
Old Sacrifice does have a point, you know. We're really not crazy about that word anymore. Are we? We swim in a culture of, "It's all about me. I'm looking out for number one. Show me the money." We love bling. We're not so big on moderation or sacrifice. I mean, what's the point of having something if you can't have too much of it? We love excess. We like convenient. We're not big on sacrifice or delay. "I want it. I want it all, and I want it now." We are a microwave people, not a crockpot. We want it all right now. No wonder that beautiful old word, Sacrifice, feels so lonesome. We're embarrassed to speak to him in public.
I got to thinking about sacrifice, to give up something valuable for the sake of someone or something else. Sacrifice. It's an act of love: to give something away for love.
Years ago, Bruce met a woman in London who served the poor. When he asked her how she'd become such an inspired Catholic, she told him how she had been a young Jewish woman fleeing the Gestapo in France during World War II. She knew she was going to be caught at any moment. She came to the house of a French Catholic widow who worked for the underground, and that French widow told her that it was time for her to go find a new hiding place. And the Jewish woman said, "It's no use. They're right on my trail. They're going to find me anyway." The French widow said, "Yes, they will find someone here, but it's time for you to leave. Go with these people to safety. I will take your identification, and I'll wait here." The Gestapo would find this French widow and think she was the Jewish woman. Then the woman looked Bruce in the eye and said, "I asked the widow why she was doing that, and she responded, “Christ sacrificed himself for me. It's the least I can do." The French widow was caught. She was imprisoned, and she died in a German camp. The Jewish woman escaped. She became a Catholic. Her life changed forever by that remarkable expression of sacrificial love. Her life was saved by it. She gave away her life for love.
Sacrifice, it's a good word, a special word. It's a holy word, sacrifice. To give something away for love, it can happen in really big ways, but more often than not, it happens in smaller things. Anita and I went to dinner not long ago with some friends of ours. And I asked them, "What do you all think about sacrifice?" Nancy answered almost immediately, "I think of my mom. She taught school for a lot of years, and she was tired. She was ready to retire. She announced her plans. She had a retirement date, but then Reuben and I got engaged. And my mom worked an entire additional year just to be able to pay for our wedding. That's what I think of when I think of sacrifice. She gave away a year of her life for love." Sacrifice.
And sometimes those invitations to sacrifice come in the little things every day. Don't they? An invitation to do the dishes when your spouse feels too tired, or the opportunity to work an extra hour so that one of your co-workers can go home and take care of an ill child. Sacrifice.
Sacrifice, it's a word that runs deep in the Christian faith. Jesus sacrificed his place and position in heaven. He became flesh. He emptied himself to become man. He became a servant. He poured himself out as an offering of God's love. And he said, "I lay down my life for the sheep." Sacrifice. Jesus sacrificed for you and for me. Think about it. There's a place in our heart made just for him. And we try to fill that God-sized hole with all kinds of things. God sees our emptiness and how we try to fill our lives with anything other than him, with relationships, with possessions, with addictions, jobs, hobbies. God sees our anger and our greed and our envy and how we allow those to control our lives. And God sees the do-not-disturb signs that we place on our hearts. He notes how we turn away from him and say, "Leave me alone," but Jesus says, "I lay down my life for the sheep." He loves you supremely, and he will give anything for you to know that. In fact, he already did. Behold the cross of Jesus. He gave his life away for love, for you. He knows you and yearns for you to know him. Sacrifice, to give something away for love.