God has designed an incredible opportunity for relational category after category to be built through the relationships we share in our families. The daily push and pull, give and take, asking and receiving, repenting and forgiving… the moments shared present a feast of ways to show we love one another.
We know that one of the greatest marks of relational love is sacrifice. Sacrifice – giving up something costly for the good of the beloved.
Sacrifice is compelling because it is volitional and voluntary. By this, I mean that sacrificing for the sake of the beloved is necessarily something someone does out of their own desire and under no compulsion by outside force. The driving force of sacrifice is love.
Sacrifice is compelling because it is costly. By definition, if something is not lost or paid in the act, it cannot be considered sacrificial. The one who chooses to sacrifice does it, having counted the cost to himself.
Sacrifice is compelling because the beloved receives a good undeserved. If I were given what I was already owed, the sacrifice would not be particularly significant in any way.
But when Jesus went to the cross of his own will, paying the invaluable price of his own life, he won for me a gift I was not owed and did not deserve. I received the offer of the eternal peace with God, something that was not mine to claim.
In our family life, we have the incredible opportunity to model and carve out categories of sacrifice for our children to recognize with greater strength as they mature.
Some practical encouragements:
Make small sacrifices for your children and gently let them know.
At the dinner table, or better yet, at the dessert table, give up the last bit of that tasty treat to your child who seems to want another bite. For our family, berries are all the rage at breakfast, and my kids are obsessed with them. It’s my joy to give up my share of berries for them to enjoy. Let them know that you’d like to sacrifice these treats because you love them.
Sometimes, it’s choosing to let your kids listen to their favorite story podcast for the millionth time in the car, when you’d really like to listen to your favorite playlist. Let them know! “I’ll sacrifice what I want because I love you.”
Leverage sibling squabbles as opportunities for sacrifice.
When a squabble is happening over a particular toy or stuffed animal, bring both (or all) the kids in front of you. Summarize for them, “It seems like we all want to be self-seeking with this toy. But which one of you can outdo the other in love and make a sacrifice for your brother/sister?” It may not always go over well, but they won’t have missed the opportunity to love their siblings in a real way.
Celebrate love in action when a child does make a small sacrifice.
If you speak of sacrifices enough, eventually, by God’s grace, one of your children will be motivated to share or sacrifice for someone else in your family. When she does, celebrate it! Notice out loud how she chose to love through sacrifice. Comment on how she probably really wanted to have her way too. Encourage your child and praise God out loud for giving her a loving heart in that moment.
Make note of the sacrifice of Jesus every time you read or hear about it.
Every time you are reading through Scripture, a children’s storybook Bible, or even watching a show about Jesus going to the cross, make note of the great sacrifice he made. Comment on how painful it was for him to die alone, and worse, how painful it was for him to endure God’s wrath so we don’t have to.
What if our children grew up learning to recognize when a sacrifice is made for love? As a result, what if love was better felt?
What if they grew to notice opportunities to sacrifice for others? As a result, what if they truly knew the weight of the cost?
What if these lived connections drew them into the very heart of the cross of Christ?
Let’s pray that by God’s grace, our children’s hearts are captivated by the deep and abiding love of Jesus, displayed for us by his sacrificial death on the cross.
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