Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
THE GREAT COMMANDMENTS: WHERE DO YOU STAND?
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27
The Sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, o God, Thou will not despise. Psalm 51:17
Good morning Prayer Team!
Just like love, there is no such thing as self-sacrifice. That is because sacrifice is something taken from someone and given to someone or something else. I guess one could sacrifice eating junk food in order to lose weight—that would be self-sacrifice, but generally speaking, as regards the two great commandments, sacrifice is something taken from someone and given to someone or something else.
So, what are things we sacrifice? Time is one answer. We give time to people or to things. I’ve sacrificed many an evening or weekend to be with someone who is sick, as an example. A volunteer coach sacrifices time for his players. We also give of our resources. People sacrifice money in order to give it to the church or to charity.
Sacrifices should not be made out of obligation and no one should be made to feel guilty about a sacrifice someone makes for them. Sacrifices also should not be made for rewards and accolades. A sacrifice should be made with joy. For instance, when I spend extra time with a couple getting them ready for their marriage, I don’t say to them “if I wasn’t spending this time with you, I’d be at home with my family, but I’m sacrificing for you,” because then they would feel guilty accepting my sacrifice.
When people sacrifice money and give it to the church building program, expecting to see their name memorialized on a plaque or on whatever item they donated, this also isn’t sacrifice. It is an exchange of money for recognition. The truest sacrifice is given with joy and without expectation of recognition or reward.
Sacrifices should be recognized with gratitude, and many times we forget that. We forget to thank our spouses, for instance, for the sacrifices they make every day. Children forget to thank their parents.
The Christian life is also centered on sacrifice. Christ made the ultimate sacrifice, His life, so that we might have eternal life. There are expectations of sacrifice for each person who follows after Christ. In Mark 8:34, Jesus says, “Whoever wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.” In other words, following Christ doesn’t mean we get to do whatever we want. It means to sacrifice some of the things we want—power, greed, lust, ego, anger, etc.—and to follow after Christ with joy.
Our sacrifice for Christ should also not be for recognition. This is why the Lord tells us to pray in secret, and our fasting should also be in secret. We should not parade around our spirituality.
Sacrifice (from a spiritual perspective)—On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you rank yourself on the following questions: Do I put aside things I’d rather do in order to stay faithful to Christ? Do I give sacrificially of my time, talent and treasure to support the work of Christ’s Church?
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Write down some bad habits that you’d like to change. Ask for God’s help to bring forgiveness into relationships where that is needed. Ask for God’s help to let go about past failings, and to soften grudges you hold against other people.
Sacrifice (from a relationship perspective)—Do I give of myself when my friend needs help, even if it is not convenient for me to do so?
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Write down things that are hard for you to give up, or give in on—maybe it’s money, or control, or letting someone else have their way. Write down at least one thing you can “give” more of to someone.
Lord, You made the ultimate sacrifice when You died on the Cross for our salvation. Help me to model what it means to sacrifice. Help me to sacrifice with joy. Help me to understand the joy of giving to others. May You be glorified in the sacrificial gestures I make. Amen.
Let everything you “give” today be given in joy!
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