Friday, June 1, 2012

Job's (Literally) Sacrificial Love



Job is book of the Bible that most of us have probably read and/or know the story of. We've all heard, or at least have probably heard, how Job got the raw end of a deal that God made with Satan. He was God's golden boy, and God used him to show Satan what was up (God was), figuratively speaking. I've heard many sermons on Job's life and the ways that God worked in his life. I've read books about suffering that have used his example. And I've also read the actual book in the Bible before.

But as I sat down yesterday morning to re-read it, something jumped out to me that hadn't before.


[Job's Character and Wealth]
[1:1] There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. [2] There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. [3] He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. [4] His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. [5] And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.
(Job 1:1-5 ESV; Emphasis added)

I want to share these thoughts with you, outlined below:

  • We are called to love sacrificially
  • We are called to love continually
  • We are called to love profoundly and selflessly

Sacrificial Love

Read those last words again. Even in his state of wealth and safety, Job was ardently concerned with holiness. It was not lost on him that holiness before God superseded material wealth and earthly blessings. And he was not after just a personal, pious holiness. It was a true holiness, one that extended throughout his being and life. Thus, he was concerned with the holiness of others. He wanted others, those he loved, to be holy before God as well. He knew what God demanded and deserved in terms of righteousness and holiness, and thusly pursued it in his own life and sought to help others do the same.

You see, because he loved God, he was able to love others and put them before himself. The love of God enabled him in turn to love others. This meant loving them sacrificially—literally.

Today we talk about loving sacrificially, and we ought to. Christ's death on the cross to penally atone for our sins has enabled us to be reconciled with God. We can now love others and really put them first, because Christ has first loved us. We are commanded to do so, in the same way that Christ first loved us.

But we don't have to perform animal sacrifices for others or ourselves anymore thanks to Christ's fulfillment of the Old Covenant—but Job did. And Job did so for his children. He made costly, time-consuming sacrifices for them just in case they had sinned. This wasn't some worry-wart commitment, but rather a reflection of a high view of God and holiness.

We are to love sacrificially, with the holiness of ourselves and others in mind.

Continual Love

Sometimes I think we lose sight of the extent to which we are called to sacrifice for others. We minimize loving others sacrificially by minimizing what we will actually do for others. It becomes more a of an internal disposition or vaguely formed thought (as in, 'I'm going to love on so-and-so'). What does it mean to love on someone? By choosing vague words, we end up with vague ideas.

What Job did, however, was not vague. Job was a righteous and upright man. He loved God, and loved others. We see clearly that he made sacrifices for them, and he did so continually. How many of us love others continually? It's easy to to love someone for a bit, maybe even off and on for a longer amount of time. But continually? That's another story entirely.

We too often have the mindset of a spiritual sprinter—we want to run as fast as we can for a short while and get our reward. We want to be holy overnight, or to be sanctified now. But this is not what the bible says. Throughout Scripture we see that the Christian walk is often a run, sometimes a stroll, sometimes an uphill sprint; but never is it something punctuated. All those parts—sprinting, endurance, walking, strolling—are part of a long, long race. We don't get to run and be done. We get to run...and run...and run...with our eyes, hearts, minds, and bodies fixed on Christ.

We are to love continually, always running towards Christ.


Profound and Selfless Love


Furthermore, we are called to sacrifice in an altogether more profound and dramatic way than Job did. Think about it: we aren't called to sacrifice animals anymore, but rather ourselves. We are called to lay down our lives for the Kingdom, for Christ, for the Gospel, for other Christians. The way in which this is really a greater sacrifice ought to be obvious.

Sacrificial animals were used to atone for sins before Christ came, but they were not the same as a human sacrifice. They were always half-measures, imperfect mollifiers. What was really needed for a perfect reconciliation and reunion with God was a human sacrifice—and a perfect one. Christ was, is, and always  will be just that.

His death thusly enables us to lay down our own lives and, with Him working through us, be living sacrifices that surrender every aspect of our lives to the Lord. We are called to die, die, and die again. Christ's life is within us at every instant, filling us and making us more and more like Him. With Christ, our lives are no longer about sacrificing other things, but rather ourselves. 

We are called to love profoundly and selflessly by giving of all that we are to Christ.


—Mark

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