Love Requires Sacrifice (Luke 18:31-End, 1 Corinthians 13.1-13)

Sacrifice is a harsh word isn’t it. Just picture that word in your head for a moment. Sacrifice. It often feels like it should have a prominent full stop after it doesn’t it? I wonder what kinds of things come into your heads when you think about the word sacrifice. For me two separate images come into my head about it:
Firstly, the image of ritual sacrifice, like ancient Jewish people would have done in Jesus’ day, the sacrifice of lambs at the altar of the lord in Jerusalem. In fact many traditional religions still practice this idea of sacrifice today. The notion of offering something up to God, or a deity in order to receive a blessing, or favour, or in ancient Israel’s case to give thanks for God’s abundance and loving kindness. Or to placate God for people’s Sins. It’s in this sense that many sacrifices were offered in the Jewish temple, sacrifices made in thanksgiving for abundance and the sheer generosity of God.  
Secondly, the image that probably comes to mind more readily to us in the here and now, is personal sacrifice. Do you remember the advert that used to be on TV, do you love anybody enough, to give them your last Rolo? That’s a small example of personal sacrifice. Being in a relationship often requires sacrifice,
I’m sure if you’ve been in one, particularly for a long time, there will have been some kind of sacrifice that you have had to take for your partner, and visa versa. Perhaps you have had to care for them when they are sick, or move house and abandon a lifestyle that you loved for them. Personal sacrifice is a part of living life well, love requires sacrifice.
St Paul talks about love in our reading from Corinthians this morning. In the NRSV verses 4-7 are translated; “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Love requires sacrifice, it means not always getting our own way. It means for better or for worse, it means for richer for poorer.  
In our reading this morning from Luke, Jesus begins with pointing towards the cross and says “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished.” But what did the prophets say about Jesus? One example that’s very relevant is Isaiah 53.

“Surely he has borne our infirmities
 and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
  struck down by God, and afflicted.
 But he was wounded for our transgressions,
 crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
 the iniquity of us all.”
Jesus was a sacrifice for us all. Sacrifice. Why? Why did someone have to die for me? Now here lies the problem for me, there are some theologies that treat the cross as a blood sacrifice, to appease God’s wrath a sacrifice had to be made because our sins were so terrible, so God offered himself on the cross in the form of Jesus to pay back the punishment that God should have inflicted on us. That’s fine to believe that, but the intellectual problem I have is, that doesn’t sound much like love to me.
If you love someone, if you love one of your children for example, and they do something wrong to you, do you want to hurt them? Is that a loving way to act? Or would you seek to change their behaviour through instruction? Seek to reconcile you and them?
Jesus on the cross was a sacrifice, for the sins of everybody, not to appease God’s desire for blood, but to reconcile us to him. Love. God’s love is so massive, so enormous, that on the cross he died to go the distance, to reconcile us to himself, totally. To bring the created order back into line with God’s loving purposes, and to reach out in forgiveness to all of humanity.
Remember the two images I used for sacrifice? I think the cross is more like the second one, a sacrifice in and through and with love. The kind of sacrifice that bears all things. Because God’s love “is patient; is kind; is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
St Paul goes on to say “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” God has reconciled us to himself in Jesus. God has loved and known us since before the world began. Love requires sacrifice, and God has done that sacrifice of Love for us.
He would definitely give us his last Rolo.

Amen.

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