Imagine a kindergartener looking solemnly at a plate of broccoli. Now imagine hearing a father’s instructing voice, “In our family, we do things we don’t like.” That’s my home and my kindergartener. Today it’s broccoli. Tomorrow it might be meatloaf. Hopefully, one day, it’s a life of sacrifice to God.
We’re not just pushing veggies in our home. We’re training for a life in God’s family. Participation in the kingdom of God, we’ve learned, is not about doing the things we like. It’s about sacrificing our lives. Paul writes, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1).
Lent, or forty days of preparation before Easter, is traditionally seen as an opportunity for sacrifice. I did not grow up with this practice, but I had friends who seemed to give up desserts each year. This form of piety was foreign to me. Was it necessary? Was it really for God? I often wondered.
Broccoli helps you grow.
I’ve come to discover that sacrifice is appropriate during Lent, especially if it elevates me beyond myself. Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane demonstrates a battle of the will. In the face of death, Jesus prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). In this scene, he is sweating blood, yet Jesus submits his will to offer the ultimate sacrifice.
Hebrews 12:2b says, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Surprisingly, we learn that Jesus experienced the torment of the cross with a forward-looking joy. These two passages inform my perspective on sacrifice—both the agony and the joy.
I’ve come to see Lent as my own opportunity to swallow the metaphorical broccoli. The practice of making planned sacrifices teaches me to put off my own desires, training me for life in the kingdom. This Lent it may be a fast from new clothing in order to save that money for a shelter. Next year, it may be responding to God’s call to live in the inner city. This Lent it may be forgoing fancy lattes to support a child in Haiti. Five years from now, it may be giving a sizable portion of my annual income to support children around the world.
It’s the small sacrifices that tune my heart to God’s heart so that I can respond when he asks me to make the big sacrifices. In time, I may even stop focusing on what I lose when I do things I “don’t like” and look ahead with joy, as I trust in God’s goodness.
Join the family and sit at the table.
This Lent as we join World Vision ACT:S and Relevant Magazine for Relentless ACT:S of Sacrifice, we are going to be met with some unique opportunities to explore how acts of sacrifice can reorient our everyday lives. The video below explains six weekly challenges that will help us learn to live sacrificially.
As we enter this journey together, remember that you are participating with your family, a family that identifies with Jesus and his sacrifice. If these practices get hard this month, I invite you to borrow from our dinner table scene and tell yourself, “In our family, we do things we don’t like.” After all, our acts of sacrifice are merely in response to God’s mercy, available through Christ’s ultimate sacrifice.
What will sacrifice mean for you this Lent? Will you do without something you like? Will you actively do something that is hard for you? Spend some time reflecting in preparation for this Lenten season.
You can still sign up to join the Relentless ACT:S community. Enter your email below or check out www.worldvisionacts.orgfor more information.
Lisa Liou has served on staff with InterVarsity for more than nine years on campuses in Michigan, Illinois, and California.