my own two arms

This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics over the next year. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries. This post’s topic is “Self-Sacrifice.”

Today’s two bits of theology are brought to you by an episode of Friends that I’ve never seen and by Rebecca St. James. How far wrong can you go?

Apparently, from what I understand from friends (the people I know, not the show) is that there was an episode of Friends (the show, not the people) that argued that nothing is truly selfless. Basically, anytime you do something, you have a motivation, a desire to do it. You get something out of it, even if what you get out of it is selflessness. If I sacrifice for you, it’s because I make the choice that’s what I want to do, and get the selfish benefit of having make the sacrifice I wanted to.

To which I say, sure. To quote a contemporarily popular show, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

Rather, I would argue that’s a good thing.

I would argue that giving is about the heart. I believe firmly that God is less interested in what we do than in who we are. A good deed done for the wrong reason is of less benefit that the transformation of the heart into something He can use. He doesn’t desire that we sacrifice in spite of our hearts; He desires that we sacrifice because of our hearts. A heart that gets its fulfillment from service to others is a beautiful thing in His eyes.

So, the Rebecca St. James part, then. She has this song I like, Carry Me High. And toward the end, there’s this spoken word bit — “Until you find something worth dying for / You’re not really living.”

And I could accept that as an axiom. But I also believe it should be taken a step further: “Until you find something worth living for / You’re just slowly dying.”

It’s easy for me to say I would die for something. My God, my country, my niece, someone I love. Heck, given a chance to fly, I would risk my life for the cause of human space exploration in a heartbeat.

But the truth is, it’s unlikely I will be called upon to die for any of those things. It’s a good thing to say those are the things that are that important to me, but I doubt that will ever be tested or demonstrated. Truth be told, I hope those will never be tested or demonstrated. I’d like to think I’d be willing to die for those things, but I don’t have any great desire to do so.

And that’s true for most of us. Most of us don’t end our lives by laying them down for something more important. The ends of our lives generally come in more divers and less epic circumstances.

So what do we do in the meantime? I would argue that the important thing is not what we’re willing to die for, but what we’re willing to live for. What we’re willing to give our time, energy and money to while we’re on this Earth. What we’re willing to pour ourselves into. What we’re willing to be passionate about.

For who, for what, are you willing to make yourself a living sacrifice?