Effective Relationships: Part 2 (Sacrificial Love)

Some time ago, a friend of mine was speaking for both services at a local church. I went to the second service and heard from several people how good the service had been. Having heard her speak on several other occasions, I was very much looking forward to what she had to say. It had been a draining week—I needed to be refueled.

Several songs into the worship, as we started one of my favourite songs, the young woman beside me, whose head had been bowed, looked up, whispered something that I could not understand and began to cry. Past her tears she whispered, “Can we go someplace and talk?”

I’ll be honest… a part of me wanted to stay. But in that instant I realized life isn’t about me. She obviously needed a listening ear and God was asking me to offer mine.

We slipped into a little prayer room away from traffic area and talked for the next hour. As she shared, I learned that she had been going through extreme health issues, financial crisis and as a family they were struggling to keep their heads above water.

There was nothing I could do in the way of solving any of the things she was dealing with. All I could offer was my ears, my heart and my prayers. Nothing more.  Granted, the timing was inconvenient but in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t a huge sacrifice, but it was sacrifice none-the-less. Sometimes a small sacrifice makes a big difference. I received an email from her a few weeks later, thanking me and sharing how that talk gave her hope again. I had not said much but in listening I had given value to her. In letting go of a valid desire to listen to my friend, I had helped her find her way through a difficult time.

Jesus lived a life of sacrificial love in its truest sense. The most obvious sacrifice is in laying down His life for sinners but even in day-to-day living He sacrificed normal comforts, rights and even reputation.

In Matthew 8:20 Jesus says:  “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Jesus understood that His mission was to focus on people, love them, heal them and give them hope. To burden Himself  with the cares and responsibility of a ‘home’ would have taken away from that mission so He chose to live a homeless life. That is sacrifice.

Not only did sacrificing these normal comforts leave Jesus homeless, they undoubtedly impacted His reputation. Imagine if some homeless dude showed up in your town or city, teaching any number of individuals who were willing to wander along and listen. Rumours would hardly be flattering. Given the amount of  demons Jesus cast out, and the number of lepers and other illnesses He healed, my hunch is they weren’t the lawyers, doctors and ‘classiest’ of crowds.  Most of them were probably ordinary to second-class citizens who quite possibly had little better to do with their time than tag along with a homeless man who told great stories and helped people.

Jesus sacrificed His reputation for the sake of meaningful relationships. He socialized with prostitutes, thieves and liars—all for relationship. There is no question in my mind that He saw all people as equal—each one with value and purpose. He looked for deeper qualities than the superficial qualifications human nature looks for. He saw hearts, hunger, pain and desperation. He saw a need that He could fill and He filled it.

God does not ask us to do everything. He does not ask us to be God to anyone and meet every need. He asks us to live a life of sacrifice that puts others ahead of ourselves and values everyone, at times even at the expense of reputation. It is in this ability to see all humanity as having value and purpose that true greatness is found and meaningful relationships are built.

Does this mean that we spend  our entire lives giving, pouring out and draining ourselves dry? Not at all! The other part of healthy relationships that Jesus teaches us by His example is healthy boundaries. There is a time to say no. A time to rest. A time to rejuvenate and it is important to recognize this and establish boundaries in all relationships. Join me in my next blog post on this topic.