The Nature of Sacrifice- Question

Some things in the gospel are very easy to talk about with others: grace, love, forgiveness, and peace for example. But other things are more difficult to broach, such as the element of sacrifice. Sacrifice, by its nature, means a painful experience. Indeed if there is no pain involved, then it isn’t really a sacrifice.

Yet discussing sacrifice is not only difficult because of the pain associated with it, but also because of the sweetness. Many people testify that their most sacred moments have come directly from their sacrifices. Indeed, both words have at their root the Latin term sacer, which means holy. Sometimes these moments are too private to share, and those that experience them can only encourage others to find their own.

But why is sacrifice such an integral part of the gospel? And why is pain essential to perfection? I would like to explore these questions and others with my new study, taking into consideration the root of all sacrifice: that of the Jesus Christ to redeem mankind.

In the meantime, I would love to hear about your own experiences with sacrifice. How have you known what you should sacrifice and what you should hold to? What were the effects of your surrendering? What did you receive in return for your loss?

Finding Our Purpose- Genesis 45:4-5

And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt.
Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.

COMMENTARY

God did send me before you to preserve life
I believe that most of us think of our calling and our trials separately. A calling is something beautiful and meaningful that we are meant to accomplish. A trial is something we have to endure to prove our faithfulness.
But it would seem that Joseph did not see them as so apart from one another. He was taken from his family, sold into slavery and imprisoned unjustly. And yet in all those monumental afflictions he had seen the hand God. Through his suffering he found purpose.
This isn’t to say that we should seek out suffering, or that we shouldn’t try to mitigate pain when it is in our power to do so. We are encouraged to avoid pain wherever possible.
But when we have been dealt a hard hand we should pause now and again to look for greater meaning in it. If we are being required to pass through something, then certainly there is a reason why. What is the bigger picture yet to be revealed?

Faith vs Fear- 1 Samuel 15:24, Jeremiah 17:5

And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.

Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.

COMMENTARY

Because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice
Yesterday we noted how fear is used to try and control others. Today we will look at what it is like to be the recipient of fear. In Saul’s case he chose to do something that he felt wrong about, because he feared. Where faith empower us to meaningful action, fear it seems is a principle of inaction.
Consider how the moment of fear is so often often described as being crippling, freezing, or paralyzing. It is a force by which men and the devil seek to prevent the undesired actions of another, or to cause them to perform an action that they feel contrary to. To the person being made afraid, then, their actions are not to achieve some greater good, but simply to avoid or mitigate pain.

Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord
Pilate feared the people, too, when they called for the crucifixion of Jesus. Peter feared the people when the identified him as on of the Lord’s followers during his trial. Each of them had their “heart depart from the Lord” because of their trust (or fear) in the power of the people, and did things they felt wrong about.
Many the vice is entered into by the root of fear. We fear what others will think of us, we fear not receiving approval, we fear being left alone. By those fears we willingly do the very things we know we shouldn’t. Not because we think those things are good, but simply to avoid or mitigate pain.

Our Dual Nature- Moses 6:55-56

And the Lord spake unto Adam, saying: Inasmuch as thy children are conceived in sin, even so when they begin to grow up, sin conceiveth in their hearts, and they taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good.
And it is given unto them to know good from evil; wherefore they are agents unto themselves, and I have given unto you another law and commandment.

COMMENTARY

They taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good
How do you know that you want to go to heaven? Because you have been told it is a place of peace and love. How do you know that you do not want to go to hell? Because you have been told it is a place of suffering and sorrow. But how do you know that you want peace and love, rather than suffering and sorrow? Because you have experience both, and therefore know which experience is pleasurable and which is painful. Even before you committed your first sin, you were educated on the differences between the two so thoroughly that you cannot mistake one for the other.
If you had never received that education, words like peace, love, pleasure, good, suffering, sorrow, pain, and evil would merely be words. Meaningless, and impossible to judge one against the other.

Wherefore they are agents unto themselves
So what is our purpose here on Earth? To gain knowledge, to learn the difference between good and evil, and to choose the better part. Because of our awareness we are able to choose a path. Not only that, but we can also turn to another path if we later change our choice. We are free to be our own agent, to steer ourselves to our own destination. We are not be some dumb entity that is puppeteered into its destiny, we choose it for ourselves.
And that is truly something worthy. For this, a God would die.

Trial Before Blessing, Pleasure Before Anguish- Lorem Ipsum

No one rejects, dislikes, or avoids pleasure itself, because it is pleasure, but those who pursue pleasure irrationally may encounter consequences that are extremely painful. Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but occasionally toil and pain can procure some great pleasure…
Who would fault a man who chooses pleasure that has no negative consequences, or who avoids any pain which produces no resultant pleasure? On the other hand, we denounce with righteous indignation men who are so beguiled and demoralized by the charms of pleasure of the moment, so blinded by desire, that they cannot foresee the pain and trouble that are bound to ensue.
The wise man therefore always holds in these matters to this principle of selection: he rejects pleasures to secure other greater pleasures, or else he endures pains to avoid worse.

COMMENTARY

Have you ever seen the Lorem Ipsum text? It’s a large collection of altered Latin that starts like this: “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua…” You may have come across and not even realized it, you see it is commonly used as a placeholder or background text. If you look closely at a graphic with nonsense text written on a newspaper, then quite possibly this is what was used.
But it’s actually an excerpt from a work by Cicero, and one that is particularly profound. I have given an abbreviated form of the translation up above. Though this is not a work of scripture, I am convinced that there is a simple truth to it. There is nothing wrong in desiring pleasure and avoiding pain…yet only if one has the wisdom to recognize that actions of immediate pleasure sometimes are followed by a worse pain, and moments of immediate pain sometimes are followed by a better pleasure.
Thus one is right to avoid the pain of touching the burning stove, but one is also right to endure the pain of healthy exercise to enjoy a better physical condition. And yet, even knowing that eating too much will be bad for us, we still do it anyway. It is common knowledge today that smoking cigarettes is bad for us, but people still smoke. Our conscience warns against telling lies, but still we lie. Tomorrow let’s examine why this sort of illogic is baked into our very nature, and how God calls us to overcome it.