The Meaning of Sacrifice


military sacrifice and christ's sacrifice

You've had this conversation a thousand times. You know how people thank your husband for his service when they find out he's in the military? And sometimes, they thank you, too? But then you kind of wonder, after a while, how much people really mean it because they probably don't know what "service" entails?

In passing, it begins to feel like a conversational nicety. Something people say because that's what they're supposed to say. And, really, that’s okay with you.

But you do know what "service" means. You know every time you uproot your family and head into the great, blue, unknown yonder. You know every time you spend a holiday, birthday, or milestone apart. You know when you think of how much of your marriage happens via FaceTime. You know because there are a million things you've given up to join this crazy journey. You know because of how your heart skips a beat when you hear the headlines.

You know because every time you see a flag draped over a casket something deep within you aches in the most indescribable way. Because the reality of that sacrifice hits too close to home.

Your family isn't living this lifestyle for the thanks you get from others. Your husband is in this line of work because he believes in our nation, in freedom, and in democracy. But it all requires a sacrifice, nonetheless.

The most beautiful thing about all of these elements of our military lives is that we serve a God who understands sacrifice perfectly — one who can empathize with everything about the hardest parts of this journey we’re on. Who draws near to us because He truly knows the cost.

Christ believed in freedom, too. He was afraid of paying the ultimate price for our sins, but He did it anyway (Luke 22:42). He had a mother and dear friends who loved and depended on Him (Luke 23:27-49). He had people who wanted to visit His grave and bury him (Luke 24). He had a Heavenly Father, who willingly gave Him as a ransom for you and for me (John 3:16). Try to imagine sending your husband on a 33-year deployment, knowing that he would eventually be humiliated, tortured, and killed so that he could bear the weight of all the world's sin.

Can you draw the emotional comparison between Christ's cross and a flag-draped casket?

Christ's sacrifice didn't protect our freedom, He delivered it with a finality that overcomes even death. Sadly, in our daily routines, we tend to be like the people who thank our husbands for their service without really thinking or meaning it. We say, "Thank you, Jesus," without letting the reasons for our thanks wash over us. But Christ's sacrifice demands a deep, heart-level, constantly flowing gratitude.

Few people can understand sacrifice like a military family. That means we should draw on the awareness God has given us through this lifestyle to dig into a deeper level of gratitude toward Him. A gratitude that digs deeper with every sacrifice we make.

Today, as we celebrate Christ's resurrection and our freedom from sin, let the price of that freedom sink in. Make that gratitude a part of everything you do.

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

Philippians 2:5-13 ESV

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This week’s challenge, readings, and questions are rolled into one. Spend time reading the verses for each question and meditating on the answers. Take a couple of days to consider each question if you need to. Then, use the last two questions to apply what you’ve learned to everyday life.
What does freedom really mean? (John 8:31-38; Romans 6:20-23; Romans 8:1-2; Revelation 1:5-6)
Why was Jesus pleased to sacrifice so much for freedom? (John 3:16-17, John 10:17-18, Romans 5:8)
How does God want to challenge you personally through a life of seemingly mandatory sacrifice? How can you use your unique experience to serve God and others? (1 Peter 2:15-17, Matthew 20:25-28, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Romans 12:9-12, Galatians 5:13)
Think back to a time when you felt most appreciated as a military spouse (or even that your husband felt most appreciated as a service member). What made that experience so touching and memorable? How can the elements that made that experience so wonderful for you be applied to your relationship with Jesus? Think of a specific way to apply that experience this week. (For instance, “someone was inconvenienced in a big way to show us how thankful they were — how am I going out of my way to show Jesus I’m thankful for Him?” Or, “someone took a lot of time sitting with us, listening to us, and really thanking us for our service — how am I offering my time to Jesus, sitting and listening to Him?”)
What parts of your life don’t reflect the gratitude you owe to Christ? What changes can you make so that they do?