Can true love exist without sacrifice?
The devotional I’m working through right now, 30 Words Book by Jarrid Wilson, asked me this question today, but it’s something I’ve long pondered in a few different forms. And the more I think and pray about it, the more I believe that, no – TRUE love cannot exist without sacrifice.
Please note now, the kind of sacrifice that I’m talking about.
See, there are three different kinds of sacrifice and they’re separated by the nature of the heart behind them. Firstly, I’m not endorsing what I like to call “martyr syndrome.” We all know those people who give things up or sacrifice to do something nice, and then all they do is complain about how hard it was or how much they did so that others will feel sorry for them. Secondly, I also don’t want to encourage boasting about how much we’re sacrificing. We probably all know someone like that too, it’s like every good thing they do for someone or everything they have to miss out on, they come across as bragging about what they’re giving up. But lastly, I do support the sacrifice of someone who just genuinely wants to help and doesn’t count the cost; those selfless people who offer up hospitality without grumbling (1 Peter 4:9) or putting on a show. The first two are incredibly different hearts from the last because the first two have something to gain from their sacrifice. The first would gain sympathy and pity, while the second, attention and praise. The third one though is what the Bible calls, “a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
But back to the matter at hand – true love; does it equal sacrifice?
First, I decided to examine what the Bible says about love, because if the Bible is the Word of God, and the Word of God is the truth, and I want true love, then I need Biblical love, and it offers a pretty straightforward definition of what love is and isn’t. If you’ve ever walked in to a Hallmark store, you’ve seen some sort of translation of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, but just in case, and so we don’t forget any part of it, here’s what it says:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.”
Interestingly enough, I don’t see the word sacrifice, do you? You shouldn’t. But I challenge you to look beyond the words and apply them to real-life relationships and you’ll find that each one of those things asks you to sacrifice.
Here’s the breakdown I took from it when I applied it to my life:
–Patient: Things won’t always be done in my time frame. I don’t determine another’s pace with some things and thus, I sacrifice my own time table to allow them theirs. For example, I’d love for a dear friend to participate in my upcoming ministry project, but she’s not ready yet. Even though I think she’d potentially get something out of the experience, I’m not about to force it. I love her, so I will be patient.
– Kind/isn’t rude/easily angered: I’m learning that kindness is something we are, not just something we do. If love is kind, then I am to BE kind to those I love, not just do kind things. So, even when I’m in not-so-nice of a mood, I sacrifice my emotions for another’s. This is something I honestly have to work on and am leaning on God heavily for, but kindness is typically walking hand in hand with selflessness, and thus kind people are sacrificing themselves (or sacrificing their wants/needs) for someone else.
–Does not envy: Jealousy and envy are different beasts, but the best comparison I’ve heard yet is this: “Jealousy is wanting what somebody else currently has, but belongs to you. Envy is: wanting what somebody else currently has, that belongs to them.” See the difference? God’s love is Biblically defined as a jealous love, but love itself is not envious. We can’t get mad and envious, which builds strife in relationships, when others have what we want. We sacrifice our natural desire to be upset about it for the good of our relationship.
–Does not boast/is not proud: In the same sense, we must sacrifice our natural desire to be a little boastful when awesome stuff happens to us or comes to us. Not everyone is blessed in the same way that we are, and while it’s okay to celebrate blessings, it shouldn’t be done in a boastful way. We should be humble, knowing that our gifts and good things are from above and we did nothing to deserve them to be boastful about in the first place. A real-life example for me, for instance, in disagreements, if you come out as the person who was right, rubbing it in your friend’s face that you were right and they were wrong is not an act of love. My step mom tried to tell me a lot about my ex-boyfriend that I just couldn’t see at the time, and we disagreed over it more than once. Once our relationship was over and the veil had been lifted, I started to see what she’d been saying, and she never once boasted or acted proud about being right. She humbly allowed me to sort through everything as God revealed it, and gracefully and lovingly helped walk me through it. She sacrificed that “HA! I TOLD YOU SO!” for my sake.
–Is not self-seeking: This seems pretty obvious, but I’ll say it anyway. Not being self-seeking means we are seeking for the gain or good of others which naturally puts them before ourselves. We sacrifice the right to selfishness and work on the behalf of someone else, even if there is zero gain for us.
–Keeps no record of wrongs: In my eyes, this is just a fancy way of saying “forgives.” Love forgives, and it doesn’t remember what happened in the past but looks at what is or is to come. It sacrifices the “right” to get even and the “right” to be angry.
–Does not delight in evil, but rejoices in truth: I don’t know why this makes me think of Philippians 4:8, but it does. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely… think about such things.” Love compels us to do this in a way; to give an example: say someone hurt you a while ago and bad things are happening in their life right now. Well, love compels us to sacrifice our desire to sickly enjoy their torment, and rather, to show them the love and truth of Jesus because God’s Word, which is the truth, commands us to do so. And love doesn’t do it begrudgingly, love does it and rejoices!
– Always protects/trusts/hopes: This Biblical love calls us beyond our feelings, and asks us to sacrifice our emotions, so that even when things are hard, we will shield each other and our relationships from evil, to be strong, trust God and each other, and to always have the hope of the Lord DESPITE how we feel. This proves, too, that love is not a feeling, but a living, breathing, action. And lastly…
–Always preserves: This could be endless sacrifice. In maintaining something that ALWAYS preserves, I can imagine many, many scenarios. Perseverance implies a “never give up” attitude and people with that mindset give up time, energy, money, their feelings… it goes on and on.
But in case that’s not enough, Christ Himself spoke these words in John 15:3, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no on than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” The way I read this, Jesus literally measured love by way of sacrifice. There is no way to love someone greater than to give up our lives for them.
Jesus Himself was the ultimate expression of God’s love for us in that God – who cannot offer up Himself because He’s not a mortal being – became flesh by way of His Son, Jesus Christ, and offered up that life as the all-atoning sacrifice.
Put in that perspective, no – no I do not believe you can have true love without sacrifice. True and Biblical love is sacrifice. Biblical love is dying to myself, that I may love God with my whole heart, mind, body, and soul (Luke 10:27), and through Him love those around me with His same heart and Spirit(Ezekiel 36:26).
With this post I want to challenge you a little, to think about the things that God has asked you to sacrifice and why, as well as what kind of attitude you had about giving it up. What might He be asking you to give up today? And also, how do your sacrifices show those around you your love? Do you make them earn it or pay you back, or do you give it freely as it has been given to you?
Praying for you always, friends.