A few days ago, I found myself in one of those predicaments that is minor in reality, but could spell disaster to the fragile emotions of my young children – two pieces of candy for three eligible kids. To make matters worse, we were in the van so there was no escaping their reaction to the inevitable decision. These are the kind of scenarios that strike fear into the heart of parents of young children everywhere. So I did what any good parent would do and told them I was going to eat the candy myself. As I prepared to pop the little candies in my mouth, my oldest spoke up and offered to let his siblings have the candy. I beamed with parental pride as I gave the candy to the younger kids and praised their older brother for his kindness. In the world of young children, this was a major sacrifice and I was pleased that my son was learning the joy of sacrificing for others.
Self-sacrifice is a virtue that has been vilified in our “me first” society, but it is one of the cornerstones to Christ-like relationships. While popular culture says you need to look out for number one because no one else will, God says to “regard one another as more important than yourselves” and to “look out for the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4).” When this takes place in relationships the experience is very rewarding and fulfilling.
However, we instinctively hold back from this self-sacrifice because the risk is obvious. The risk is that I will be taken advantage of, used or hurt if I sacrifice myself for someone else. Jesus alluded to this risk when He said, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13).” Though he is speaking of His sacrifice for His disciples and all mankind, He brings up a scenario in which one friend pays a higher price in the relationship. He also reveals the key to this kind of sacrifice. The key to this kind of self-sacrifice is love. When I love as Christ loved, than I am able to sacrifice as He sacrificed, and that’s what real friends do.