Summary: Love has the power to proclaim God’s grace and demonstrate the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16 “The Power of Love”
At the end of our text today, the writer to the Hebrews exhorts his readers. He writes, “Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of the lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”
On occasion, words are so overused that they lose their meaning and their power. The word “love” is probably the clearest example of this. We use the word “love” in everything from declaring our love at our wedding, to enjoying a chocolate chip cookie at Paradise Bakery. Another word that has come to the overuse misuse arena is the word, “absolutely.” There are conversations where almost every statement is answered by the word, “absolutely.” I’m not sure if it is a word of agreement, disagreement, or a recording.
In Christian circles a misused and misunderstood word is, “sacrifice.” We talk about giving sacrificially, and living sacrificially, but I’m not sure if we are clear on what is being communicated. We also say that we sacrifice for our children by driving them to soccer practice, guys make the ultimate sacrifice for the significant others by going to chick flicks, and women are continually sacrificing themselves by putting down the toilet seat. It is easy to see that “sacrifice” is an overused word. So, what does the writer mean when he talks about a sacrifice of praise?
When Christians talk about the idea of sacrifice, the model, of course, is Jesus. An early Christian hymn celebrates the truth that Jesus emptied himself and became one of us. Throughout the letter to the Hebrews the writer refers to Jesus’ sacrifice. In Hebrews 13:13 he writes, “There for Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood.”
A sacrifice is based on love. Jesus was God’s love offering to humankind. Jesus was a demonstration of how deeply God loves us. Because of that love, humankind has been able to experience God’s love, grace, forgiveness, and walk in a new relationship with God.
Sacrifice involves a cost. The cost of Jesus’ sacrifice was his life and death. Jesus gave all so that we might have.
Sacrifice involves actions of love. The cross was not the only way Jesus showed his love. He also lived his life as a sacrifice. Jesus healed the sick, cast out demons, reached out to the disenfranchised. All that Jesus did he did to the glory of God.
In the Old Testament, sacrifices were intended to be responses to God’s love. Sacrifices weren’t intended to sway God’s will.
The sacrificial offerings came from the very best—the first fruit and unblemished livestock. It was an insult to God to give God the leftovers, or the spoiled.
God always wanted more from God’s people than going through the religious motions of making a sacrifice. God also desired his people to respond to God’s love by loving mercy and seeking justice. Generous and service orientated relationships with other people were also a part of the people’s religious sacrifice. Service and generosity were always seen, however, as demonstrations of one’s love for God.
The apostle Paul agrees with the writer to the Hebrews. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans and encourages his readers to offer themselves as a living sacrifice.
Our sacrifices are love offerings to God in response to God’s love and grace that we experience.
Our sacrifices are meant to come from the first fruits and the unblemished. A sacrifice is not composed of leftovers.
Prayers and songs of praise are verbal sacrifices—love offerings that are acceptable to God.
We give from our blessings, and we give to God. Our words and actions are meant to be sacrifices.
We are asked to give sacrificially. We give from the financial blessings that we have received. Though we may give in order to overcome the shortfall in the general fund, or building overages, we give our gift to God.
Our gifts of time and talents when used in service are sacrifices pleasing to God. They may range from hospitality, visiting prisoners, and contentedness as listed by the writer to the Hebrews, or they may also range from being a Moppet caregiver, cooking part of a meal for Eve’s place, or listening to a co-worker as he or she unloads on you.
Words of praise and actions of loving service are sacrifices that honor God and are pleasing to God. They also allow us to love and share the love and grace of God with others. People respond to the gospel when it is shared in this manner. They aren’t’ attracted to theological arguments.
Jesus was a living sacrifice for us. May we be living sacrifices for him, so that we may honor God and touch the lives of those around us.