In the year 2000, the Pew Research Group did a study of recognized virtues among American adults. They interviewed 1000 adults asking them to list the 10 most important virtues. What struck me was a word that was not mentioned by anyone: 1000 people listing 10 virtues = 10,000. Sacrifice was not mentioned.
Indeed, in a culture obsessed with individual rights, the concept of sacrificing for others has fallen on hard times. It has led, according to some, to women becoming doormats and people in general being taken advantage of. Upon reflection, I suppose there may be some truth in that. However, should that lead us wholly to negate the value of sacrifice or sacrificial love? I rather hope not.
In the 1990s, there was even a small movement among Christians to diminish the importance and value of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. It seemed too violent and bloody, too crass and all that. They said we should focus on the love and forget the sacrifice. Given that Romans 5:8 reveals that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” I am hard pressed to separate the love from the sacrifice. Indeed, the sacrifice IS the expression, the demonstration, the proof of God’s love.
As I write this, we are approaching Memorial Day, a time when we are encouraged—even given a holiday for some—to remember the sacrifices of those who have served in our Armed Forces, who have sacrificed time, health, even life itself. It seems ironic that most of us who are still alive and enjoying the benefits of others’ sacrifice get the holiday. Those who gave their lives, well, they get a holiday in their honor, sort of.
Last Memorial Day (a few days ago) did you pause for a moment to honor those who sacrificed for our freedom? If you didn’t it’s not too late: the act of honoring their sacrifice is more important than the day itself.
[You can do it right now, right where you are. Try it.. If you do it, what was the experience like?
If you’re too busy or not inclined, well….]
This Memorial Day I will be remembering my father, who as a young 19-year old farm boy turned machine gunner on an American bomber, was injured over Europe. As a result, he gave up college football and could never straighten his right arm. But he did return to America alive. I am grateful for his sacrifice, and for the sacrifice of many.
I’m also grateful for the sacrificial love of my mother. Yes, she was often taken advantage of, and was a doormat to my father. Life is messy. Yet, I hold her in highest esteem for the sacrifices she made on my behalf. It could not have been easy.
I don’t have all the answers but I know she taught me what it means to love—sacrificially. If I were asked to name virtues, sacrifice still ranks high for me.
- The sacrifices of many who have fought for our freedom
- The sacrifices of my mother
- And the eternal love stamped upon me in the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross.
Take a moment to remember and give thanks.
What do you think?