As we approach the end of the Month of Sacrifice ( February-Februation ), you may find it interesting that what may be the most romantic & romanticized holiday, Valentine's Day comes right ( exactly ) in the middle of the month! This may seem like a mere coincidence, because traditional history tells us that St. Valentine, a Roman Catholic priest who kindly officiated over weddings against imperial orders, was executed in a three-fold manner on the 14th of February, 269AD. The question might be asked here, 'was he summarily executed in the middle of this certain month because of the purifying manner of his death, or did mere chance decide that he would die on this certain day, in this certain way?
How many Christians, not to mention unbelievers, out there do you believe would be willing to lay down their lives, not just for their friends, but much more, simply for the sake of doing right? To lay one's life down for one's friends, Jesus said ( John 15:13 ), is the greatest example of Love that a person can show; it is the supreme sacrifice! Whether one practices it in actuality, literally dying in the stead of another, or metaphorically, unselfishly giving preference to another, or deferring to someone else, giving them the choice rather than choosing for one's own selfish ends.
In this day & age, notwithstanding the natural selfishness of most human beings, individuals are taught, pretty much from day one, to cultivate that natural tendency! No more is Sacrificial Living taught, especially not the sort that Jesus exemplified. The tendency to do what's best for oneself is not only exemplified in our society, it's encouraged!
To a certain extent, it is true that one must take priority over others, because if one doesn't take care of oneself, how can one care for others? However, there is the Scriptural principal of bearing one another's burdens! When we take care of others in deference, there is no guarantee that this care will be returned, but if we treat others as we would have them treat us, we have followed the commands of Christ, our Heavenly Father's House Rules! In most, not necessarily all cases, we will be blessed with reciprocity, and of course, in all ways enjoy Blessed Communion with our Heavenly Father!
Sacrificial Living, in the greatest sense then, could simply be a substitutional term for Kingdom Living! When Christians take seriously the words of the Christ, 'seek first the Kingdom of Heaven, and all these things will be added to you', then we may witness more growth then the Kingdom of God has seen since the First Century! As we, the Body of Christ, minister daily in this Society of Selfishness, we may, through our Sacrificial & Kingdom Living, so influence the world we live in that it will be a shining example of the Kingdom for others to seek after!
One thing, however, that we must understand, is that the selfishness of our society is so intrenched that we, as individual Christians may not see much, if any, lasting change in our world! Individualism has for so long had such an influence on virtually every aspect of society that it will be an arduous struggle to reeducate a selfish population to seek, not his own, but each others good ( well-being-I Corinthians 10:24 )!
Kingdom Living then, is Sacrificial Living of the sort that Americans, even American Christians, are not used to seeing! The Kingdom Life is not just Life lived to the fullest, it is not just pledging allegiance to no kingdom except that of our Heavenly Father; it is, as the apostle wrote, 'present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, [ which is ] your reasonable service' ( Romans 12 ), it is living sacrificiallly before & for the world, for the Kingdom of God!
Charles Haddon Shank