Don't Give it Up, Make it Sacred
01 October 2005
We are called not so much to give up what means most to us, but to make it sacred, to transform it.
By CHRIS LANCASTER
THE WORD ‘SACRIFICE’ is used in many different ways—often to mean ‘giving up something’. So people ‘sacrifice’ their time, or their money, or even their lives as martyrs for a religion or cause.
People of faith have often thought in terms of sacrificing one’s life for God’s purposes. For some it has meant putting aside cherished plans for study and careers. For others it has meant spending years far from their homelands and their families and friends. For many it has involved living with little financial security.
But how else might we understand the idea of sacrifice? The word’s Latin derivation means ‘to make holy, to make sacred’. This changes the perspective. We are called not so much to give up what means most to us, but to make it sacred, to transform it. So we sacrifice our time by using it for the highest purpose, not squandering it on worthless things. We sacrifice our money—this might mean parting with it! And we sacrifice our lives for the service of others.
We are not called to lay aside who we most deeply are, in order to devote our time and energy to something which is supposedly more worthy. Rather, we are called to ‘sacrifice’ who we most deeply are—by embracing it and living it out for the good of the world around us. If you are a politician, then sacrifice that position: through what it gives to society. If you are a teacher, then sacrifice that position: in the way that it affirms the life and worth of every child. If you are an artist, then sacrifice it: in the way that your art touches the deepest truths of what it is to be human.
Once we move away from the notion of giving something up, we are freed to realize that none of these things—our time, our resources and our very lives—were ever ours to ‘give up’ in the first place. The only things we can and must give up are those that prevent us from faithfully sacrificing all of who we are: our self-centred fears, desires, prejudices and insecurities. This is our opportunity to live the freedom for which we were created.