Sandra McCraken is a Nashville folk singer and songwriter who has written a number of Christian songs. One of them is called “Age After Age”. And in her song she tells the story of two young boys in Missouri who spent their summer playing by some sandbag levees that had held back some of the extreme flooding that had happened in the previous 10 years on the Mississippi River.
Tragically, one day they found themselves in some quicksand. There had been a breach in the levy—it was a terrible day. When rescue workers found them and came to them, they only found the younger boy standing in the sand. “Where is your brother?” he was asked. “I’m standing on his shoulders,” answered the young boy. The older brother had sacrificed his life to save his younger brother. It was a terrible story, but a noble act of self-sacrifice.
If you look up the deﬁnition of ‘sacriﬁce’ in the dictionary, it says something like this: a voluntary giving up of something valued; forfeiture; a relinquishment; an offering. It’s clear that, in every case, sacriﬁce is both painful and costly. We might sacriﬁce our health, our home, our livelihood, even our lives for the sake of others. But, we will only do this when our sacriﬁce is understood to beneﬁt those we love.
Here are just a few examples:
- Parents will make sacriﬁces in order to provide for their children.
- Students will make sacriﬁces in order to get good grades and please their families.
- Workers will often make sacriﬁces to ensure they stay employed and are able to provide for their families.
- Employers will make sacriﬁces to ensure their employees are happy.
- Athletes will make sacriﬁces so that they might improve, become the best in their sport and win accolades for their country.
- Ordinary citizens will make numerous sacriﬁces (pay taxes, obey laws) in order to be acknowledged as genuine members of the local community and wider society.
There have been other remarkable stories of heroism, like this one reported by The Courier Mail:
Alan Dundas helped to save a life – and sacrificed his own in the process.
In November 2010, the 49-year-old, along with his brother Stewart, selflessly plunged into the surf at Agnes Water, north of Bundaberg, in a desperate effort to rescue his nephew Morgan, who had been dragged 40m from the shore.
The brothers reached the boy, holding Morgan safely in the water until he could be rescued, but tragically the rip proved too powerful for Alan.
And he drowned. We admire people like Alan Dundas who gave his life for another person. We live in a culture that says ‘me first’—that I am no.1 and my own safety and welfare is paramount.
Uncommon Acts of Sacrifice
Soldiers will make sacrifices for the protection of their country and for its freedom. American Army Private First Class Ross McGinnis—promoted posthumously to Specialist—was on a mission in Baghdad to find an area suitable for housing a generator to provide power to local residents. But he saved the lives of at least four of his fellow soldiers by smothering a grenade thrown into their military vehicle with his body. This act of bravery cost him his life, but saved the lives of everyone else inside the vehicle. That was on 4 December 2006. One of his comrades said, “because we were his brothers, he loved us.” McGinnis was awarded the Medal of Honour posthumously for his action on the battlefield.
Such acts of valour are uncommon. People typically don’t sacrifice their lives for others, even their loved ones. Though it’s uncommon for someone to sacrifice his or her life for a friend, as we see with the story of Private McGinnis, it does happen. But it would be nearly impossible to find examples of people sacrificing their life for an enemy.
Amazingly enough, Jesus made such a sacrifice. Nearly 2,000 years ago, the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans: “For while were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Regardless of if we admit it or not, as sinners, we’re all enemies of God, deserving death and God’s wrath. Yet, Jesus died for us. He made the ultimate sacrifice with his life for you and me. Why did Jesus die? Why did he sacrifice his life for his enemies? What did his death on the cross accomplish for you and me?
The Bible tells us in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.