S is for Sacrifice

SI have Comcast cable (yes, I know…please save your rant against “the man”) and this week is “Watch Week” – a week dedicated solely to binging on watching all of the television shows and movies subscribes don’t normally get the chance to watch because they don’t subscribe to the channels the shows are being played on. Yes, its a big ploy to get people to subscribe to more services.

Now I am not a subscriber to paid channels like HBO, I don’t stream Netflix or other services and am not typically a binge watcher unless you count having the television on in the background while I work. I personally don’t count that because I typically have absolutely no idea what’s on – its just background noise; a sense of having someone else in the room with me. However, this time, I have fallen into the trap. I made the mistake of looking to see what was available on Friday night and was sucked into the wormhole that is binge watching in order to see an HBO series True Crime. I am a fan of murder mysteries of all kinds so the name was intriguing  and when I saw that it starred Matthew McConnaughey and Woody Harrelson I figured I couldn’t really go wrong staring at the two of them for a an hour or 5.

I’m now nearly done with series 1. The story of this season centers around the hunt for a serial killer who poses women in poses which are both complex and sacrificial in nature which made me realize how thankful I am that the Christian faith doesn’t require me to participate in the sacrifice of animals.

I just don’t understand how sacrificing an innocent living creature provides sanctification Mother Theresafor something that I have done wrong. At a basic level, I guess I understand the concept – I did something wrong and now must pay for that wrong. I understand that part but I don’t understand is how the payment for my wrongdoing became something having to have it’s throat slit as opposed to say having to repay a person that I stole from or acknowledging a lie and having to make up for that lie by first acknowledging it to the person I lied to and then having to earn back trust from that person.

How is murder or anything the act of a loving God? And how do we know that this God of vengeance isn’t going to change His mind as He seems to have done between the Old Testament and the New Testament and suddenly start requiring His followers to being human sacrifices? Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t help but feel the concept of a living sacrifice seems vindictive at best and evil at worst.

I also can’t help but wonder if we didn’t just get it wrong in times of the Old Testament.I mean, the idea of sacrificing first fruits of one’s crop seems understandable to me. I personally tithe to my church because I believe that I have what I have because of the plan God has put in place for me and it is right for me to offer my thanks for these blessings by helping to support my community. But moving from first fruits – taking away something that you have worked for and been blessed with to give thanks to God – and substituting a bird, lamb, or other living creature doesn’t make sense to me.How does this type of sacrifice bring glory to God?

TGodQuoteshe God that requires sacrifice of this type is mean and vengeful, not loving and while I understand that the Old Testament is full of stories of God being extremely vengeful, at this point in my spiritual walk, I have a hard time reconciling that God with the God that is described in the New Testament. Either God changed significantly – which would indicate that our God is not consistent and could change His mind at any time about anything including just wiping us all off the earth for no other reason than He feels like it today – or we misinterpreted what God was instructing us to do and perhaps it was the misunderstanding that lead to the destructions depicted in the Old Testament, not the vengefulness of God.

The thing is I do believe that we a members of a faith body need to make sacrifices in order to stay true to our beliefs and to grow in our spirituality, but to me, making a sacrifice that is personal makes more sense to me than killing something external. Even being told I had to contort my body into the unbelievably difficult poses of advanced yoga would make more sense to me than blood sacrifice.

I hear you asking what about the sacrifice of Jesus who came and died on the cross in order that we wouldn’t have to do sacrifices any more? This is an enormous topic and not something I can get into fully here, but let me say this. Yes, I believe Jesus is my Lord, that He came to this earth, provided a living example of the life we are to live, was murdered on the cross, died and was resurrected and returned to his place in the Trinity. Yes, I believe He sacrificed Himself – both by coming to earth as a human and then through His death – but I find myself wondering if the focus on the blood sacrifice is actually missing the point of His time here.

What if Jesus’ coming was less about His death and more about His living?sacrifice of self

I mean, Christians certainly do focus on His life and miracles, but in a lot of ways we are still so much like the disciples – just missing out on the general purpose for His time here on earth.

As i think about the way Jesus lived, it seems to me that he lived a life of daily sacrifice to honor God and we often miss that part of the story, choosing instead to look at the blood and drama of the story. The bottom line of Jesus’ coming to earth was LOVE not blood, and from my somewhat unconventional perspective, it seems to me that my job here as a Christian should be the same.

From my somewhat unconventional perspective, it seems to me that Jesus provided a living, physical example of how to live out the Ten Commandments – which are surprisingly similar to the Buddhist beliefs of sacrifice.

Buddhist sacrifice is about denying worldly pleasures – things like alcohol, lavish living, acting out in anger at others, to name a few, in order to live a life of honor. While Buddhist practice is about internal reflection and action, I see distinct correlations to the way Jesus lived these same sorts of principles to bring honor and glory to God. Rather than focusing on how these self-sacrifices were making Him better (which wasn’t possible since He’s perfect), he pointed the glory up to God.

This is, to me, the type of sacrifice we should be continuing to practice. Doing things like spending more time in prayer instead of going out on the town every weekend or spending the money I would spend on alcohol caring for those in need certainly would bring more glory to God and also remind me of not only His presence in my life, but who is ultimately in control of my life..

And isn’t sacrifice about reminding us who’s in control?

sacrifice-loveThe bottom line for me is this: the God I choose to follow – that I believe placed me here and has a plan for me – is a loving God that provides ways for me to follow His ways in peace and love. He sent His son to show me how to do that and it is my job while I am here to try to live out that example as best I can.

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