A Labor or Love

My mother was an extreme example of love for my brother and me.  Mom was a teacher.

However, Mom sacrificed her time as a professional educator to raise her two sons.  For the better part of eighteen years, our mother took us to school when it rained, she prepared our food when we came home for lunch, and she checked our homework before we went to bed each night.  Yet, by taking herself out of the classroom, she forfeited any opportunity to advance her career.

My mom demonstrated for me that true love requires a sacrifice.  Put another way, true sacrifice is a labor of love.  Of course, a myriad of examples exist that put love’s sacrifice on full display.  Consider the example of a father taking on a second job in order to put his daughter through college.  Or ponder the actions of a doctor who meets an ailing patient in his office long after the doors have closed.  Or think about the conduct of a friend who stays the night comforting a widow whose husband just passed away.  And most certainly is the death of Jesus, who offered his own life on a cross as the greatest demonstration of love.  True sacrifice is always a labor of love.

The period we call Lent has been historically a period of sacrifice.  Christians typically have given up something of value or importance as an act of penance, regret, or sorrow.  Some have given up eating red meat or sugary sweets or in the case of my wife, diet coke.  This pattern of sacrifice came about as the result of a pattern practiced by the early Church.  Would-be Christians or catechumens, as they were called, began an intensive period of learning during the Lenten season.  At the conclusion of this challenging period of time, each catechumen would step down into a grave that had been dug out and filled with water.  The catechumen would then be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  This act of being dunked under the water was symbolic of the words I read a moment ago: “We were buried in baptism as Christ was buried in death…[so] if we have become one with Christ in His death, we will be one with Him in being raised from the dead to new life” (Romans 6:4-5, NLV).  In rather candid fashion, Paul was claiming that our identification with Christ in his sacrificial death is a reflective demonstration of our love for Him.

Again, I tell you, true sacrifice is a labor of love.  And, whatever you choose to give up during this season of Lent, you are doing so, not simply because you feel badly about something wrong you have done or that you regret something you said.  Ultimately, your sacrifice is a strong demonstration of your love for Jesus.

However, love is not simply an expression as to what we give up.  Love is equally displayed by what we take on.  So, in addition to giving up steak or cookies or even diet coke, consider the possibility of taking on an additional time of devotion and prayer.  Or rather than playing golf every Friday afternoon, consider volunteering your time at a local mission.  Or instead of playing canasta when your friends each week, take the next forty days to tutor a child in your neighborhood school.  For whatever you do in sacrifice for others, you do so also as a labor of love for Him.
-Pastor David