THE SOCIETAL HEDGE OF THE CHURCH - P6
“We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).
We’re continuing to study how the Church is a societal hedge or foundation for a free and just society. This week, we’re looking at the Christian concepts of self-sacrifice and how that is a practical service to those around us. This uniquely Christian idea teaches us that we should live for others, not just for ourselves.
It is evident that if you live a self-willed life for your own pleasures and your own good, you will exploit and harm those around you in service to your “needs.” This is sin, which is rebellion against God’s way—living for your own fleshly needs and desires at the expense of others. And because man chosen self-will in Eden, the world is filled with “all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful” (Rom. 1:29-31).
In contrast, self-sacrifice is the denial of your flesh for the benefit of others. It is a service to society—to your spouse, your children, your parents, your neighbors, and your community: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4). It is giving of your energy and time and goodness to them for their good, taking responsibility for others—and this is the essential foundation of a free society which offers its citizens unparalleled liberty.
It is to understand that what is “good” for you is often harmful to others, and what makes you happy often makes someone else miserable. God wants the most good for everyone, and in this broken world this means that sometimes we have to go through times of unpleasantness and self-sacrifice to benefit others.
And it is no surprise that God gave us the ultimate example of self-sacrifice in His Son Jesus Christ Who was “manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:26b). Jesus became the ultimate expression of self-sacrifice—taking responsibility in His death for the horrific sins of the most vile in the world. Jesus gave us the pattern to follow. He laid His life down for us. Have we contemplated the depth of His self-sacrifice for us?
First, He sacrificed His glory and throne to come and serve lowly, broken, fallen humanity. He lived His whole life on Earth in hard service to the needs of others, without pleasures or luxuries—with “nowhere to lay His head” (Lk. 9:58). But it did not end there. He literally laid down His life for us, suffering and dying horrifically and unjustly in our place of judgement so we wouldn’t have to. But more than that, He sacrificed His holiness and purity so that the horrific sins of the world could be nailed to Him—and He owned them before God, taking responsibility for the righteous judgment that we are due for our sins. He endured separation from His Father for us so that we could be reconciled back to God!
Jesus’ life is an example of selflessly laying down your life in service to the needs of others—at the expense of your comfort, pleasure, and hopes. The mighty and weak are equally commanded to emulate Him, taking up their own crosses of self-sacrifice and self-denial in service to God (Matt. 16:24-25), which results in practical service to others—shielding society from the destructive outcomes of the self-willed lusts of our flesh.
God calls us all to lay our lives down for others—laying down our passions, desires, dreams, and even lives in service to others. “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13). This was the culture that made western society a light in the world—its desire to imitate Christ. (We’ll continue our look at Self-sacrifice next time). Even so, Amen.