“What is man that thou art mindful of him?” David asked.
It is intimidating to fathom the depths of God’s love for his creation. To help put our emotions to words, Isaac Watts penned the words to the great song, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”.
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
“We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Counting the Cost of Sacrifice
Jesus has told us to “count the cost” of following him.
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Mt 10:34–39.
First, we see that Christians should expect sacrifice. In verses 34-36, Jesus reminds us that making the decision for Christ will often set you at odds with family and friends. The Thessalonians are a tremendous example of the sacrifices one makes in order to gain the kingdom of Heaven. They “turned to God from idols and to wait for his son from Heaven” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). In this “turn” many lost their employment, family relationships, and social structures.
Even today, many who decide to begin following Jesus loose all they have ever known in order to gain that which they have never had. Those in hostile Islamic countries make bold declarations to the world around them when they are baptized. Everyone knows that they have made an incredible change and their lives are at stake although their souls are safe.
In this country division over religion is not an infrequent thing. Many suffer persecution for being Christians even in the here and now. Families feel the division when some decide to follow Christ while others yield to doctrinal error or immoral living. Some are ridiculed for their faith at schools, work, and even at home by unbelievers (2 Peter 3:1-4).
We also see that this sacrifice arises from the Christians new priorities (Matthew 10:37-39). The battle is familiar. One person wants to go to Olive Garden, all the others want Cracker-Barrell. What to do! Where will you go? Dissapointment looms on horizon. The same thing happens every time someone is trying to please God while thier friends and family are trying to please themselves.
It is no wonder God warned us to “be not unequally yoked with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14). The degree of devotion God deserves is established here in Matthew 10:37. Jesus said we must love him “more than father or mother” and “more than son or daughter.” It is difficult to imagine loving anyone more than your immediate family, but that is the devotion God requires and deserves.
This devotion toward God is not a burden, but a reminder of how important it is to “train up our children in the way they should go.” We must let our family and friends know that we will be with the Lord and we hope and pray they will be with us too. However, we can nevver let our physical family take us from our Heavenly Father.
Finally, We also see that sacrifice arises from them emblem of persectution (Matthew 10:38-39). The way of the cross leads home. The cross is an ancient form of captial punishment, embarrasment, and discouragement. Its purpose was not only to punish the one who stepped out of line, but also to discourage anyone from getting similar ideas.
But for Christians everything about the cross has been reversed. It is not an emblem of discouragement any longer. It is the very picture of encouragement. It is not a tool of hate. It is now the expression of the greatest love. It was used to turn people away, but now Christ uses the cross to invite us.
We have the opportunity to take up our cross and follow Jesus. This is a call to sacrifice. It is a call to die to oneself (Galatians 2:20). It is often so difficult that we, like Jesus, pray that there be some other way. Like Jesus, we pray to have the strength to follow the path which must be trod.
What does this sacrifice look like?
It’s one thing to sit back and philosophize over the roles of sacrifice, reward, service, gratitude, and Christian responsibility. But, we also need to take time to meditate on what it would look like in real life.
- What friends and family have I lost because I am a Christian? If the answer is none, could that be a problem with the way you are living out your faith?
- What relationships should be put on hold in order to live the Christian life? Who is between you and Jesus?
- What is your cross? Not the burdens of life which have been thrown at you, but what service could you give for the Lord (Matthew 25)?
- How could we better meditate on what Jesus has done for us?
- How could we better respond with loving service and sacrifice for him?