Love & Sacrifice

Love. We’ve been hurt by it and we’ve been blessed by it. People have even died for it. Love evokes a passion from within us. However, for a lot of us love can be so confusing. How can one fall in love and then years later fall out of love? How does that work? Is love really so frivolous? Is love really that unreliable?

Despite the passion that lives in that one little word, we have managed to water it down. Love has become this abstract concept that our culture distorts for its own purposes. In fact, love has become so subjective and so self-serving that we have used it to create a kind of self-worship. If it feels good, do it! If it makes you happy, go for it! But have we stopped to ask ourselves what loving someone really means? Are we aware of what it takes to truly love another human being?

My husband and I have been married almost 13 years. We had a long honeymoon period where we blissfully thought to ourselves, “This is easy! Why do people make marriage out to be so hard?” Then one day reality caught up with us and we understood how divorces happen to the most well intentioned couples.

We were faced with a series of hard choices. We had the choice to fight for our relationship or to let it go, the choice to forgive or be resentful, the choice to love as Jesus loved or to love how the world loves. The lesson we learned through this is if we are going to truly love each other it will require sacrifice. God patiently taught us that there are certain things we would have to give up. There will be times when we will have to put our spouse first above ourselves. And there will be times when we don’t “feel” all lovey dovey but truly loving our spouse means choosing to stay and work and pray and try.

Love often requires us to make hard choices. Love is just plain messy sometimes. Jesus demonstrated His love by making the hard choices. He humbly chose to give up his rightful place in Heaven to become a man. He chose to suffer in our place and be accused even though He was innocent. He chose to die a painful death that He didn’t deserve.

Jesus chose to make this sacrifice, not because it felt good (it didn’t!) but because He loves us and He knew it was what we needed. We needed to be rescued from our sin and so He gave of Himself to make that happen. No one forced Jesus into it. He chose it. It’s an incredible example of true love.

“The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (John 10: 17-18)

This kind of love is supernatural. It makes me ask myself the hard questions. Do I love my spouse with a sacrificial love or a self-serving, worldly love? Am I laying down my life for Jesus? Am I looking to Christ to define what true love is or am I letting the world teach me about love?

The world says love is about what makes me happy, what makes me feel good. Our culture says that love is pleasure and self-gratification and if my spouse can’t make me happy I will find someone else. It’s a lie whispered by the father of lies. It’s the reason divorce is so prevalent in our “50 Shades of Gray” culture.

If a marriage is built on a foundation of pleasure and self-gratification, it will fail. God designed marriage and He tells us in Scripture that we, the Church, are His Bride and He is our Bridegroom (Ephesians 5: 25-33). That’s a beautiful metaphor. God is quite the romantic! But God doesn’t just give us pretty words and feel good symbolism. He acted on His love for us. In Ephesians 5: 25 it says that Jesus gave himself up for his Bride and that husbands should love their wives in the same way. This is a beautiful passage and I hope you will take the time to read it. In verse 32, Paul calls this marriage metaphor a “profound mystery”, something we shouldn’t take lightly.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5: 25-33)

I want to encourage you to fight hard for your marriage, to protect this profound mystery, and to love as Jesus loved. I want to cheer you on and lead you to Jesus and His example of what love really is. He loved us with sacrifice. And that word, dear readers, is where you will find love at its purest.

Jennifer Legate

A repost from My Journey of Faith Magazine