My first semester to teach, I bought a t-shirt that read: I’ll try to be nicer, if you’ll try to be smarter. I thought it was funny. My course director didn’t think it would be a good idea to wear it to class. Can you imagine? What possible harm could that do? At any rate, I thought it might be a fair trade. What a deal for both parties, I get smart students and they get a nice teacher.
I like the trade deal Christ offers. I get to trade in my sin, shame, hurt, anxiety, anger and strife and in return I get salvation, joy, healing, peace, happiness and contentment. Jesus tells us to cast our cares on him, because he cares for us. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. We get to give him all our crud an he will give us eternal life. Wow. What a deal for me. I’m fairly sure that my icky pitfalls and peccadillos are gross in his sight, so, he’s not getting the best end of that deal.
Sitting in church on Sunday, I had a horrible thought: would I be willing to trade my salvation for someone else’s, I mean, if that were even possible, which it isn’t. But if it were? Christ gave up his priestly, heavenly kingdom, to come to dirty, nasty, disgusting Earth as a child, and be mocked, stripped, tortured and killed in exchange for my sin, so that I could live. Would I do that? Would I even do part of that?
Recently, comments have come to light from Senate hopeful, Christine O’Donnell. She said, as part of her commenting guest spot on Bill Maher’s show in the 1990s, that given the hypothetical situation of her hiding Jews in her home during WWII, she would not lie to a Nazi in order to protect those Jews, because lying is disrespectful to the truth and a sin. Don’t get me wrong, I think she would be hoping for a ram- in- the- bushes moment in that situation, that God would make a way for her to get out of telling a lie or keep the Jews from punishment, but it does reveal something else to me: she wouldn’t be willing to sacrifice herself for others.
I’ve, thankfully, never been in a situation to physically save a life. I’m not sure what I would do or how I would react. So, it’s all hypothetical. But, I am pretty darn sure that if it came down to performing the sin of fornication or having someone rape my child, you better believe I would choose sin. I would absolutely hope for a miracle – the attacker has a heart attack, the would-be rapist accidentally shoots himself, I find superhuman strength and channel my inner Samson… but if God did not intervene (and sometimes he doesn’t) and I could choose, I would choose sin for me rather than pain and shame for my children. If my children were starving and we had no money, would I steal? I might choose sin for me rather than hunger and deprivation for my children.
But those are my kids! What would I be willing to sacrifice for anyone else? What about my neighbors? What about my co-workers? Would I make the same choices for them? This goes against the Christian paradigm we’ve created, which is that salvation is individual, a personal relationship, between me and God. Would I be willing to lie to a Nazi to protect a Jew? Yes. It would be sin, but it’s no less than what I would do for my children. Are those hypothetical Jews I’m hiding any less dependent upon me? No. Are they any less my neighbor? No, no, no.
I have often tried to make deals with God. We do that, us humans, we bargain. I promised so many times that I would give up something (like sleeping in) or pick up something (more Bible reading) and be really, really, really good, if only God would somehow make a way for those I loved best to find salvation. I wonder, if it came down to it, what would we TRULY be willing to give up to see that?
Sacrifice is supposed to be asymetrical, otherwise, it would be called Compromise. A fellow blogger posted last week on Ghandi’s birthday, his revised 7 deadly sins. One was Worship without Sacrifice. We no longer offer burnt sacrifices on the alter. Now, the sacrifice is bread and wine (grape juice!) that we neither baked (thanks, King’s Hawaiian!) nor grew. The only toiling we do for that is a trip to the store. Let’s make a deal, though, let’s see what happens when we start thinking about giving ourselves up for others, when we lessen the trade value of our hard work, when we don’t seek a reciprocation of gifts, or recognition or good will, when we give away without seeking a return. Let’s look more like Christ and less like the wretches we are without the free grace we’ve received.