Ephesians 5:1-2 (New International Version)
1Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Sometimes when I set out in the morning to read the Bible I don't get very far, and this morning was like that. I started to read Ephesians chapter 5 and didn't get beyond the first two verses.
"Be imitators or God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."
There is so much in just those two verses to open my heart and soul and mind to.
Living a "life of love," could be taken as a sweet and gentle, airy-fairy sort of thing, but not according to this verse. For love, it goes on to say, was demonstrated by Christ as our pattern to follow.
The verses challenge me to my very core, because they talk of the meaning of love being sacrifice; and not sacrifice of things, but of Self.
And so this morning, because I do love God and I consider his words as infinitely precious and the guide for life, I have to take his invitation seriously, to do a hard thing; lay down Self and self interest.
It is easier to do this for God than for other people somehow--after all, we owe him everything--our very lives. But Ephesians 5:1-2 doesn't let me stay there. The text says that Jesus gave himself, not to God alone, but he gave himself for us.
So I must give my "self" for others and this is easier in theory than in fact. There are numbers of times in every day when my "self" is poked, prodded or jostled, and I don't like it very much.
Last Sunday our son Peter mentioned The Truth Project, on which he had just spent two days training. It seems to be about grounding people in the truth of God's word, which is a powerful thing and very much needed.
Peter said that the concept of sacrifice had come up and the analogy of being a "step" for others. That reminded me of a beautiful piece that I read long ago, from a book, Creation in Christ,* by George MacDonald. It was about the ultimate transformation of "self," and a small section echoes what Peter heard at The Truth Project:
His eternal rejoicing will be in God--and in his fellows, before whom he will cast his glad self to be--a stair for their climbing.
God knows how far I am from that place. But I want to get there--to be glad to be a "stair."
*Published by Harold Shaw Publishers, Wheaton, Ill.