The Easter holidays are probably my favourite. It’s a time of no class, coming home and spending time with your family, eating chocolate, and reading Facebook posts reminding us not to forget why we celebrate Easter.
In an attempt to walk off the 3 Easter eggs I consumed over the Easter weekend (I think that’s impressive), I went for a walk on the beach of my hometown. On arrival, I couldn’t help but notice a ribbon cross, lying in the sand. It was probably just a Sunday school craft that got left behind – but this piece of litter reminded me of how easy it is to know and believe in the Easter story, but also how easy it is to leave it behind when it suits me. Do I really ‘live out the cross’?
The Easter “story” is not just a story. It was real life. It happened. It was Jesus’ reality. It was Simon Peter’s reality. It was Mary’s reality. When I think of Easter, the first thing that comes to mind is the word sacrifice. This is fairly obvious to most people. When you get past how astonishing it is that Jesus rose from the dead and fulfilled prophecy (still mind-blowing), we realise that it all started with a sacrifice. Jesus was blameless. He was without need of punishment – yet held the weight of the world’s sin on his shoulders and gave his life as a sacrifice. A sacrifice that opens heaven’s door to us all. So there we go – the meaning of Easter. But knowing and believing this is whilst you open your packet of mini eggs is simply not enough.
As Christians we are called to sacrificial living. We are called to live biblically. And yes, this can turn a lot of people away. It’s seen as ‘living by the rules’, as restriction and kind of boring in today’s ‘YOLO’ culture. Recently it occurred to me that my sacrifice is lazy. It’s selfish. My sacrifice is still somehow invested in worldly things and not in God. I am trying my best to live for God, but I’m only giving part of myself, only some areas of my life, over to Him. Why? Because I like fitting in with my friends. Living for myself sometimes is fun and it’s addictive. Sacrifice can be daunting when you’ve gotten into a habit of indulging in the things that the world has to offer now and again.
But Easter is a reminder that Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice. And once we let the reality of this story truly sink in – doesn’t it make the worldly things we are called to sacrifice as Christians look so small in comparison? We are called to view things with a heavenly perspective (Colossians 3:2-3). The earthly things that I haven’t been sacrificing to God will perish. They are often the things/actions that get in the way of my relationship with God, fill me with guilt and regret and make me feel like I can’t pray.
Jesus is coming back. He has prepared a place for us. He will reward us. When the reality of God’s promises and heaven hits us, sooner or later we start will start to look at our earthly sacrifices not as sacrifices at all – but as pure gain. We should happily give them over to the Lord. Because they are worthless, and what he is giving us in return is precious. With this perspective we can focus on the end reward, the crown of life, rather than what we have given up to follow God. It’s not easy. We are all human. The bible warns us that this life is a struggle. A struggle made ten times easier by trusting in Him and looking to Him for our comfort.
Sacrifice goes beyond giving up our own personal idols. God wants our sacrifice to also liberate others. Academic Rodger Olson said “The mark of such a sacrificial life is eager willingness to give up comfort and privilege when that will help the weak”. When you think of ‘the weak’, maybe you think of the people you know and the injustices they face in our city – be it homelessness, abuse, racism, etc. Maybe you think of the people you have never met, the families caught between the cross fire in South Sudan, the Syrian refugees, the 36 million people held in bondage over the globe, the persecuted Christians in North Korea and Iraq. When faced with these issues- we need to be intentional in our sacrifice if we are going to help – and committed, if we ever want to see change.
Sacrificing your own resources is maybe one of the most obvious, yet difficult methods for some, especially when you’re a skint student. But even if we sacrifice one luxury a week, and give the money to charity instead – we could still make a massive difference. And when giving money isn’t always an option, donating to food and clothes banks for the homeless in our city is another way. Again we need to see things from that heavenly perspective – does that OK! Magazine really matter?
Jesus willingly gave up his time to offer help and comfort those who were in need, whether they were widows, prostitutes, tax collectors, paralysed or blind. We as Christians are also called to sacrifice our time to help those who need it most. This may mean less time on Netflix and more time meeting with those who care about the same issues you do. This could mean investing time in raising awareness for these issues, telling your family and friends, speaking for the voiceless. It could mean volunteering in your local crisis centre. It could mean buying the homeless man you see every day a cuppa and sticking around for a chat. It could even mean getting up a bit earlier and praying for the weak every day (to me this is SO important!).
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”- Matthew 25:40.
So whilst reflecting over this past Easter period, I am challenged to give myself, my whole self, over to Him. Not just the bits of my life that are easy to hand over. Not just a piece. Because He didn’t give just a piece of Him when He hung on the cross. And no earthy pleasure will ever measure up to what Jesus is offering. I am challenged to stop seeing my earthly sacrifices as sacrifices at all, but as a declaration of my love for Him. I want to live more radically for Him. And I urge myself, and you, to look at your life, the people around you, your city, your sacrifice. How can you help liberate people? Be intentional. Love Him, and live out the cross.
Words by Lara Millar