Sacrifice, in the Christian sense, is not an exchange or a transaction. Thinking of it that way is a terrible mistake, but one often made. We model Christian sacrifice after Temple sacrifice, slaughtering animals in exchange for a good harvest, or shedding innocent blood in exchange for forgiveness.

But Christian sacrifice is not the giving up of some possession in anticipation of a replacement of greater value. Christian sacrifice is a sacrifice of the self, with no expectation of personal reward.

That’s why Jesus speaks of God as a loving father. When a parent brings new life into the world and loves that new creation, the parent immediately begins the process of self-sacrifice. In a thousand ways, the parent gives up his own life for the life of the child, not with the expectation of future reward, but simply because that is what love is, that is what love does.  Just so, Christian love at its heart is self-sacrificial.

But it is not therefore unconcerned. A parent sacrifices self, not with the expectation of personal recompense, but in the hope that the child will turn out well. A parent’s love is self-interested only in the sense that its interest now lies in the well-being of another, the child. A loving parent’s sacrifice of self is linked to a faith that the child’s well-being and health will be nourished by that sacrifice, that the child will flourish.

We say that the Son of God died for us, but the deeper reality is that God sacrificed Himself in faith.

Faith in each one of us.

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