Self-sacrifice

Self-sacrifice

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. – John 15:13

Romans 5:6-10

 6 When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.

 7 Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good.

 8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.

“Praying Hands” is the famous ink and pencil sketch drawing made in 1508 by Albrecht Durer. The sketch is simple yet precise. It shows only the hands of a man praying. His body is out of sight.

But the back story is special, heartwarming, stirring. It speaks of familial love, sacrifice, deference, and loyalty. The most well-known account that is come down to us by J. Greenwald, and goes as follows.  

Albrecht Durer was the father of the family of 18 children. He was a goldsmith and reportedly worked almost 18 hours a day at the keep food on the table. Two of Durer’s sons, Albrecht, his namesake, and Albert and dreamt of becoming artists. But the cost of a formal education for both of them was way beyond the family’s means.

The two brothers worked out a plan. One would work at the nearby mines and use earnings to support his brother while he attended art school at Nuremberg. After 4 years, they would switch places, and the one brother would pay for the education of the other by either working in the mines himself or selling his artwork. This was all decided by the toss of a coin. Albrecht junior won the toss and went off to art school. Albert went to work in the mines. Albrecht’s etchings, woodcuts and oils were superb. He was soon earning large commissions.

Albrecht returned to his village, and the Durer family held a festive dinner on his behalf. After the meal, Albrecht stood up to drink a toast to his beloved brother. He ended by saying, “And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you.”

Albert sat, tears streaming down his pale face, shaking his lowered head from side to side while he sobbed and repeated, over and over, “No, no, no.” “No, brother. I cannot go to Nuremberg. It is too late for me. Look what four years in the mines have done to my hands!”

The bones in every finger have been broken or crushed at least once. Arthritis had set in and he could no longer make delicate lines on parchment or canvas with a pen or a brush.

Albrecht Durer’s hundreds of superb portraits, pen and silver-point sketches, watercolors, charcoals, woodcuts, and copper engravings hang in many of the great museums in the world. But Albrecht Durer’s most famous work is, “Praying Hands.”

As the story goes, Albrecht Durer painstakingly drew his brother’s bused and broken hands stretched skyward in prayer. He called his powerful drawing simply “Hands.” But the world soon embraced his great masterpiece and renamed his tribute of love, “Praying Hands.”

Praying Hands

Albrecht Durer’s masterpiece, “Praying Hands,” illustrates for all time the essence of self-sacrificial love. How does the dictionary define self-sacrificial love? It is the sacrifice of one’s personal self-interest or well-being for the sake of another. Self-sacrificial love is the willingness to make compromises and to give up things you value for the well-being and success of another.

REFLECT & PRAY

“Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self” (St. Francis of Assisi).

Oh Father, if only I had a smidgen of the immense self-sacrificial love that You and Your Son the Lord Jesus Christ possess.

INSIGHT

 John 15:12-13

 12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.

 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

On rare occasions, we are willing to die for family members, friends, or even strangers who are good or upright. But who would be willing to die for evil people, enemies, or their personal tormentors?

But that is precisely what the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ did. We were vile sinners, willfully disobedient, and defiant enemies. Many of us who are now the Father’s children denied His existence, mocked Him, and even hated Him!

Romans 5:6, 8

 6 When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.

 8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

In our wildest imagination, we can’t envision this ever happening. But it did! The Lord Jesus Christ died for each of us individually when we were vile, disobedient, rebellious, defiant, godless sinners.

How can we be sure that the Father God really, truly loves us? It is summed up in one simple sentence regarding the Lord Jesus Christ, “He died on a piece of wood, yet He made the hill upon which it stood!” (Hal Lindsey)

Most of us comprehend and admire “big,” one-time sacrifices. But what about the little, day-to-day ones involving interpersonal relationships. This is where the rubber hits the road for each of us. Choosing to serve, yield, and compromise are among the difficult life-lessons that the Father’s children are intended to learn.

Are you willing to apologize when you’re wrong? Are you willing to forgive others when they are wrong? People are born for trouble as readily as sparks fly up from a fire (Job 5:7).

Interpersonal relationships can be messy. Difficulties, disagreements, offenses, sickness and health are part of the package. This is where personal integrity and strength of character are forged. Love and commitment enable us to face together life’s struggles. Self-sacrificial love does not take into account a wrong suffered or keep score.

It is though each of us maintains an internal scale of balances. The wrongs of others get piled on one side. The good deeds go on the other side. It is necessary to develop strategies to permanently remove the accumulated stacks of wrongs for our own emotional well-being. Without this, the scales will never be balanced. Have you learned to unload the wrongs from your scale of balances?

As we grow in our walk with the Lord Jesus Christ, self-sacrificial love becomes the norm. What we once considered sacrifices, no longer are. They are the language of the Father’s love that we have finally learned to speak.

Sadly, for most of us, it is the most difficult language to learn and become fluent in.

As the Father’s children, we have the perfect example in the Lord Jesus Christ of self-sacrificial love.

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