We must be careful when we are talking about being like Christ. There are ways we can and cannot be like Jesus. His work on the cross was unique. His death atoned. His sacrificed took away our sins. We also must guard against the temptation to view Christ as just a good example and nothing more. Yet we are supposed to look like our Lord in a secondary way. Ephesians 5:1-2 say this: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” While our sacrifices do not atone we are supposed to show our love for others by sacrificing for them. Here are four ways we can know that we are learning to sacrifice like Christ. What do we sacrifice? It is rarely our lives. What we give up is time, money, energy, and often our own dreams and desires.
1. We are learning to sacrifice without resentment. Sacrifice with bitterness is not sacrificing like Christ. This ties in closely with #2. Often we are not sacrificing, but we are buying people with our good deeds. When we do something nice and there is no payoff we get bitter.
2. We are learning to sacrifice when there is nothing in it for us. If we have a “I do this for you, but you will do something for me” mentality we are not sacrificing like Christ. Too many of us function on debt/payment system. When we sacrifice for someone we are putting them in our debt and they now owe us. This is not like Christ. This is a great danger for parents who often give to their children in the hopes that the children will give back to them as well as spouses who sacrifice for each other, but often in hopes of repayment.
3. We are learning to sacrifice for those who do not deserve it. Let’s state the obvious: Jesus gave for those did not deserve, you and me. Go and do likewise. So often, before we decided to sacrifice for someone, we evaluate them and weigh them in the balance. Do they really deserve this? It is a great twisting of grace to only give to those who we think deserve it.
4. We are learning to sacrifice with joy. A sacrifice that is sour is a sacrifice tainted with sin. This does not mean we ignore the difficulty of sacrificing for others. (See Jesus in the garden.) But it means that we should be glad to lay down our money, time, energy, and dreams for those around us. It is better to give than receive.