by Marcy Wehrman
What does it mean to serve sacrificially?
As I’ve been thinking about the idea of true sacrifice in the way we serve as the body of Christ, I wanted to start with a definition of “sacrifice.”
A couple general definitions:
- to give up (something important or valued) for the sake of other considerations
- to suffer loss of, give up, renounce, injure, or destroy especially for an ideal, belief, or end
When I think back on ways that I have claimed to “serve” God, I could count on one hand the times that I have truly given up, renounced, or destroyed anything of value. I have not “suffered loss” in any way that has had a lasting impact. Yes, I have made a grocery run. I have cleaned someone’s home and cooked a meal. I have dropped people off at the airport and picked them up again. So what?
The times that have made me think, “This is what it means to be a living sacrifice,” have been the times where I have been completely available to someone emotionally and with no time constraints. It’s not easy, and it requires a level of willingness to say, “My needs are irrelevant in this moment,” but it leaves a lasting mark on the kingdom and embodies the kind of sacrifice I think Jesus was talking about.
I think about Jesus, shortly before he was going to die the most horrible death known to mankind. He had just finished eating the last meal he would ever share with his disciples on the earth as we know it. He had to tell them he knew they would desert him and scatter when he died. Knowing Peter would deny him, Jesus patiently listened to assurances that Peter wouldn’t dare do such a thing.
I think about Jesus’ emotional state in those moments. He was going to the garden to plead with God one last time to take away the unimaginable burden he was facing. In that moment, he didn’t need food or clean clothes. He didn’t need a pep talk full of empty platitudes that “everything happens for a reason” and “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” He didn’t need someone to pray for him. He needed his friends to come and sit with him. He needed to know someone was close, physically and emotionally. He was silently screaming, “I can’t do this alone!,” and all he wanted was the nearness of the people that knew him most and best.
The disciples’ response to Jesus’ request was to half-heartedly join him and then take a nap. He asked for one hour of their time. To sit. To be near. To help carry the weight of his overwhelming burden, for one hour.
The disciples’ response sounds a lot like mine sometimes when I’m asked to give up my time. “It’s been a really long day, and I’m just not feelin’ it right now.” “I wish I could help, but I have a hair appointment.” “That’s all the way across town, so I don’t think I can.” My excuses can be translated into a very simple statement: I AM UNWILLING.
How about you? Are you willing to sit with him for an hour? Can you carry someone else’s burden for an hour? Can you give up something important for the sake of someone else? That is sacrifice. Bring a casserole if it makes you feel better, but bring YOU. Sit. Be near. Listen. Cry with someone. SACRIFICE.