Every year the Salina Community of Christ holds a clothing drive for three weeks helping those out in the city that need extra items. This last year they saw over 150 people come through and gave out three turkey's to families in need. One interesting situation took place this year that took those helping by surprise. There was a family in attendance whose house had just burned down. The Pastor took the family through helping them find the sizes they needed. At one point he looked up and everyone else in the room had stopped. They were all looking at the family and apparently knew of their recent situation. Some people stepped back so they had room while others began shouting out the sizes they needed. The attendees of the clothing drive searched table by table and even gave up the items they had already taken for themselves. The people provided service by searching and disregarded their own desires for the sake of others who they felt needed it more than them. This was not pity but a sacrificial love for others.
Sacrificing our own wants and desires for the benefit of something more important or worthy can be powerfully freeing. Sacrifice is an interesting and controversial issue among some groups. Let's look closer at how sacrifice can play a role in our spiritual life, what is sacrificial love, and if we should have limits of what to give.
Drum Major for Justice
Since today we celebrate the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr., I think its imperative we take a little time to pull him into this discussion of sacrifice. Martin Luther King believed in equality for all people. It was a cause that meant so much that he was willing to take the risks of harm, jail, and even death in order to ensure those for others. The peaceful, non-violent marches raised awareness of the injustice happening in America. He believed his sacrifices and personal harm was little compared to the worthy cause of equality. There are many ways Martin Luther King lived this out in his life but maybe there was nothing more widespread as his sacrificial love for others in the belief we are "the beloved community". This spoke through his actions in attempting to end racism and give equal rights to all. For more information on Martin Luther King please read the TIME Magazine "What People Still Don't Know About Martin Luther King Jr."
Injustice still happens in our world, even surrounding some of the same issues Martin Luther King Jr. fought for and against. It is our actions as a beloved community which can eliminate injustice and show sacrificial love for others.
Sacrificial Love and Our Spiritual Life
Sacrificial love is about giving up our own selfish desires for those of others. Agape love would be another term used for it. You are making a choice to respect and honor another individual while seeking their overall well being. This type of love is of moral integrity and is at the heart of God. Our spiritual lives can thrive when we choose to love sacrificially in the situations life presents.
Check out this video by the Bible Project describing Agape love and how Jesus modeled this in his life and ministry.
If we allow our love to expand for the well being of others around us people are impacted in creative and life changing ways. Are you currently living out sacrificial love in your work and personal life? How would you be different if you choose to sacrificially love those around you?
When we seek the heart of God by sacrificially loving those around us our spiritual lives deepen. Our own personal desires suddenly become aligned with the will of God for our lives. We listen more attentively, walk more confidently, and open our eyes to the needs of others. I love this song by Jeremy Camp "Empty Me" because it speaks to opening ourselves up to the Spirit of God in our lives.
Limits and Boundaries to Sacrificial Love
Sometimes we will go out of our way to help others. We might think if we just give more and try harder it will happen. However sometimes that is not the case. Giving can be tiresome, and emotionally exhausting, especially if it is always one-sided.
Somewhere along the way we have equated sacrificial love to giving everything for others, even if its not good for us. Sacrificial love is at the heart of God but does God want us to personally suffer from our giving? And if so how does that impact our spiritual life?
I think it comes down to us really knowing who we are and what we want. Sometimes others can take advantage of people knowing they will give if they ask. Other times people might try to shame or guilt us into actions. Sacrificial love always comes from our desire to help but it has to be our desire. If we are doing it from a position of obligation, worry, or attempt to keep a relationship than I would argue it is not sacrificial love. It seems like we need to have healthy boundaries that protect us and lead us into relationships of respect and accountability.
Aaron Ben-Zeev wrote an article on Psychology Today titled "Does Love Involve Sacrifice or Compromise" which discusses sacrifices in relationships which might be helpful for you. Chiara Mazzucco's blog "3 Toxic Signs of Sacrificial Love: Why it Doesn't Work and How to Detach" describes some of the issues of not having healthy boundaries in our life and how they impact our relationships.
Now there are some people who would argue sacrificial love is never wrong. We give and do not expect anything in return. We love without conditions and do not look back no matter what or how others treat us. What do you think?
I think its important to remember Jesus had boundaries and expectations for others especially those in power. Jesus met the needs of others but did not let others walk all over him. He peacefully and confidently handled concerns upholding the worth of others and himself.
As I stated above sacrificial love is a controversial topic however its important we think and talk about it. We each have to decide what it means for our lives and what boundaries we should have.
Questions for Discussion
When have you seen sacrificial love displayed?
When is a time you have given of yourself for another?
What injustices are happening in your community?
Should there be limits or boundaries for ourselves when we love sacrificially with others? If so what should those be?
How do you align values, lifestyle with God's will for your life?
Thank you all for following along and sharing! This week think how you sacrificially love others and what boundaries are helpful for you.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.