is sacrifice a cup of coffee?

So how does a $2 cup of coffee look like sacrifice? I truly love my friends. They don’t let me get away with anything. That question was the first thing I heard a couple of Thursdays ago at 6:30 in the morning from my good friend who I have been meeting with every week for the last eight years.

For some context and perspective, his question followed an article I had written in the August 2nd edition of The Republic newspaper in Columbus, Indiana entitled, “Recognizing Sacrifice Beginning to Spiritual Growth.” My contention was that there is profound wisdom in pursuing a life in which one sacrifices everything. Only there will one end up with nothing and everything…and find life. I went on to say that people have not been told that becoming a disciple of Jesus involves sacrifice. Rather, people join our churches and have the disjointed idea that when they accept Jesus, they are entitled members who receive their personal Jesus only to be left longing for more. Without sacrifice we only continue to run in circles on the periphery of life, never to find anything deeper or more spiritual.

I didn’t anticipate the confusion around the word sacrifice. It wasn’t just one friend with one question about sacrifice and coffee. It was person after person asking what sacrifice looks like and how it begins in the life of a Christian. The reality is that what was once a foundational characteristic in the lives of Christians now has to be rediscovered and relearned by a new generation, and this will likely have to be done without the help of the church.

Let us start by understanding that the beginning point of sacrifice is not a cup of coffee. The beginning point is your heart and then maybe the cup of coffee. Sacrifice that begins on the outside rarely, if ever, brings inner transformation, freedom, or life change. Sacrifice that begins on the inside can change the man and the world.

This inward sacrifice begins with confession.  That was where a few of us started last week. Not just confession to God, but to each other. Not just confessing the light stuff, but the absolutely shameful stuff. We took the words from James 5, about confessing our sins to our brothers, and stood together under the cross as naked sinners. There was no more judgment left to be levied against each other; the cross of Christ made sure of that. There was just grace, forgiveness, bread, and wine. This was our first step in the death of our old selves and in the transformative work of the Holy Spirit.

Confession can only begin with the repentant individual, but can only be practiced in a community of sinners. Maybe this is why the sacrificial expression of confession has been lost on the church for so long. Could it be that we appear so good and perfect in our churches that there is no place for the sinner, much less a confession to another brother or sister? Do we worry what others might think or how they will respond if they find out what sinners we are? Could it be that I am the only sinner in my fellowship and have been left in isolation and utterly alone with my sin? One might wonder if we have moved from our once lowly position together beneath the cross to a higher position in which we are now the ones hammering the nails. 

Sacrificing a cup of coffee is too easy and a cheap badge we can waive around to other Christians signifying that we have given something up in the name of sacrifice. But becoming a church community where the sinner is welcome, because we all are sinners, and then choosing as individuals to become confessional as we stand under the cross together is where life truly begins. That is where the self is truly defeated and the power of God can finally begin to work. 

brandon

3 thoughts on “is sacrifice a cup of coffee?

  1. Interesting how some of the same things have been on my mind as well. I was pondering the other day about tithing and wondering if it truly is a sacrifice for me any longer. I thought to myself and came to the conclusion that at the beginning of my normal giving it truly was a sacrifice; it made a change in my finances and changed what I could or could not spend on me. As we added more to our normal giving there was a noticable “opportunity cost”. The issue is when there is no longer an “opportunity cost” there seems to no longer be a sacrifice at least to me. In our checkbook it shows that we are giving and some may see this as a sacrifice, but sometimes its just superficial. I have lately only seen sacrificial giving as of late with giving our windfalls…You know those checks you get in the mail may they be rebates from best buy, econ stimulus, property tax credits or even unanticipated tax refunds. These times, my friends are when I am faced with the largest decisions. These provide an opportunity for me to buy the latest and greatest gadget, take my wife to St. Elmos or Ruths Chris or buy a car even though I do not need to. These are the situations when as a child (after receiving money I never knew I had coming), I would ask to go to 3D (an 80’s dept store chain if you did not know) to buy something for me may it be a hot wheel car or better yet a stomper! I still, to this day feel the nudge to spend these windfalls on me, but so many times I have been able to see what God can do with my heart when I surrender this over to him. It is also amazing to me that, even though my self would rather say something else he places a need in front of me at the right time may it be friends of ours picking up their family of 6 and heading over to Istanbul Turkey to share the love of Christ or someone in our Hoouse Church needing to pay their past due mortgage because of a situation outside of their control. You see, it does always come down to the heart. There is a decision between my plan and God’s plan. Sorry to put it in terms of money, but this is so easy to put it in context. For me, when it gets to a situation where there is no opportunity cost, there becomes no heart litmus test and therefore no sacrifice. Its kinda like fasting (you may feel differently so please do not take offense) but for me fasting movies, chocolate or coffee or other items we all can live without is not the same as fasting real human sustenance and depending upon God and the Holy Spirit for nourishment. With everything it comes down to the heart. Is it truly a sacrifice; I guess this a question we all should contantly ask and pray to God about as we walk through this life we are called to live in Christ.

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