Allow me to preface this article by saying I do not do sacrificial love very well. I will also add that, if you’re honest with yourself, you don’t either. This is precisely why we need Jesus. We need his forgiveness and his redemptive grace to be able to express love that is any way good.
We’re not good lovers – by nature. We like to think we are but we’re not. We started out broken. Our world is broken. Adam and Eve broke it first and then we continue to break it. We’re so selfish like that.
Does all of that sound hopeless? Hold on!
When we, as Believers, think of sacrificial love we think of Jesus. To sacrificially love others is the essence of Jesus. Jesus IS sacrificial love. To be perfect as Jesus is perfect, to forgive as Jesus forgave, and to love as Christ loves, as we are told to do in scripture, are unattainable accomplishments in our humanness. We are not Jesus. That’s the simple truth of it.
The good news is that Jesus left us with all the power we need to be sacrificial lovers. He left us with the Holy Spirit. Our best hope in loving sacrificially is to rely on the Spirit that lives inside of us. This doesn’t mean we are going to do it perfectly or even very well, it just means that we have access to draw from the Source of sacrificial love Himself.
Built into us is the ability to choose. We can choose God, others, or ourselves. Even better, we can choose ALL three. Let’s consider the top three ways we can choose sacrificial love.
God gave us the opportunity to choose Him. He doesn’t force Himself on us. How it must have grieved Him when Adam and Eve, the first beings He fashioned in His own image, chose a piece of fruit, chose selfish pleasure, over Him, their creator, provider and protector. Not that it was a surprise to God, because He knew it was coming. I can imagine how actually seeing the betrayal play out broke His heart.
But God… instead of writing us off, he sent us a new choice, Jesus.
Jesus paved the road for us to our Father with His blood of sacrificial love, grace, and forgiveness. We can’t love, offer grace or forgiveness as Jesus did because, as I mentioned before, we’re not Jesus, but we certainly have no hope of doing it at all without Him.
Choosing Jesus is the first and very necessary step to being able to offer sacrificial love. We can’t give what we don’t have.
“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8
In this world of utterly ridiculous messages of entitlement heaped onto us through media, choosing yourself might seem to be a very narrow-minded concept.
In choosing yourself, I don’t mean buying that awesome pair of boots or going on that cruise that “you deserve”. Not that boots and cruises are bad but I’m talking about loving and caring for yourself. Your body, your mind, your soul. These are things that make you, you.
God worked hard creating the world and its inhabitants for 6 days. He rested on the 7th day and made it a point to include that in scripture. Jesus called the disciples to a quiet place because they were working so hard they didn't even have time to eat. Jesus also went into the wilderness and the garden to be alone with his Father to pray. Rest and restoration were a priority even for God.
How are you choosing yourself? It could look like taking a shower or eating oatmeal instead of Captain Crunch (ouch!). Or it could be reclaiming your 7th day or planning your wilderness getaway.
When we live depleted and running on fumes, we have nothing to give. Sure, we’re supposed to work hard. God modeled that for us too. But when we are rested, healthy, recharged… when we practice God-honoring self-care; it is then that we will be able to sacrificially love others out of our overflow.
“God provides for His own. It is pointless to get up early, work hard, and go to bed late anxiously laboring for food to eat; for God provides for those He loves, even while they are sleeping.” Psalm 127:1-2
There is a purpose to the order I chose and in “others” being last. We must choose Jesus first, then ourselves, then others. We need to be filled before we can fill. You can’t take your car to the gas station to fill up your tank if the underground tanks are empty. Right?
“Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) clearly implies that I will need to love myself before I can love my neighbor.
When we love Jesus first and then we love ourselves, it is then that we can generously and sacrificially love others.
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” 1 John 3:16 ESV
Sacrificially loving others isn’t about doing what we do well. Sacrificial love comes from outside of our sweet spot. It’s giving more than we have to give, doing more than we know how to do, sharing more than we thought we could share. When we reach out generously to serve others we see a beautiful picture of life as God planned it to be.
Want to become a sacrificial lover? Yes, me too. Even if we won’t master it, let’s make good choices and at least keep trying. I imagine Jesus, seeing me in my failures, cheering me on. “Keep trying! You can do this!! I bet my life on it.” ~Jesus