What is sacrifice? Sacrifice is first and foremost giving or depriving ourselves of something we have or love, or of something we cannot live without. It is not something that we make easily or willingly. It is something that we make with effort and often with suffering. A great deal of the other things we do can be imitated but sacrifice can’t.
It is so dear that the price for making it can be paid only by the one who is capable of paying it. If someone tries to imitate it in order to profit from it, he is immediately exposed as an imitator, because the purpose of sacrifice is not me, but you: you are the one who profit from it; you are the one who gain; you are the one for whom I pain! In sacrifice you matter more to me than me. This is precisely why sacrifice attracts us to each other. The greater the sacrifice I make for you, the greater the value you have for me.
The logical response to sacrifice is greater connectivity between you and me, but this is not the reason why I sacrifice myself. The reason is always you, not me, and not what I do for you. The other logical consequence of sacrifice is your doing the same way for me or for someone else who needs sacrifice. You may not respond thus, but then you miss the opportunity to experience the “beautifying effects” of it: growth in love and selflessness.
Why is that so? It seems that our actions lead to traits in our character being formed and developed that make us what we are: the actions aiming at satisfying our personal interests (to extents surpassing our natural needs) make us selfish, whereas the actions aiming at satisfying other people’s interests make us unselfish. If we want to live lonely lives (which ultimatley happens to selfish people no matter whether they live alone or not), we won’t make any sacrifice, but if we want to live shared lives, sacrifice will be part of our daily existence. And then we will have many friends.
If sacrifice bears such good fruits, why is it so hard for us to do it? Because there is something in us that resists it! To explain my answer, I will expand the scope of my reasoning and go beyond human relationships by saying that sacrifice is an idispensable part of the creation process: if the Creator hadn’t sacrificed part of Himself, there wouldn’t have been any creation at all, that is, there wouldn’t be either me or you. Sacrifice makes possible the existence of more than one being. Of course, the act of creation is not just sacrifice and maybe what the Creator did was not exactly sacrifice, but a natural expression of His nature, a way in which He functions. Let me explain what I mean. Life, being a very complex phenomenon, is – apart from everything else – a sequence of continuous interactions between separate elements. When these elements are perfect, each interaction and its results will also be perfect. The combinations of these interactions – as many as they are and of whatever nature they are – will be perfect and there wouldn’t be anything that would cause failure or suffering in the way these combinations occur – both old or new. What I dare suppose is that sacrifice in the creation act was probably painless and even delightful for the Creator.
For us, however, sacrifice entails effort and possibly suffering and we have to force ourselves in order to make it. Why?
As I was writing this, my pencil got scratchy and my writing became difficult. Obviously, that there was something in the graphite which was not graphite and it spoiled my normal writing process. I believe that something similar hinders man in functioning normally and perceiving sacrifice as a natural expression of his existence. For sacrifice is good and necessary as part of the coexistence of many beings in one. There is no interaction without giving and receiving; otherwise it wouldn’t be interaction but a one-way action (regardless of the direction). The difficulty of sacrifice comes from the fact that there is something in man that prevents him from seeing it as good and beneficial and that he has to overcome with effort in order to make it. It’s only after he has made it and has experienced its good effects upon himself and the person for whom he has made it, that he would feel greater delight the next time he makes it – delight that will increase with each subsequent sacrifice and will start to resemble the Creator’s state during creation. The Bible calls it ‘sin’, but I will call it ‘ruin’ for the sake of better illustration and understanding.
How does ruin prevent man from functioning perfectly? It does so by disrupting order and causing deficiency and failure. The Perfect God created a perfect being with the ability to make decisions that could either be concurrent with His Own or contrary to His Own (the only way to be free). If something is perfect, it cannot be made more perfect, and anything that changes it, ruins it. It either has to be acknowledged and accepted as perfect or be changed and ruined. Then there are two possibilities: remain ruined or be mended and become perfect again.
And here comes the big question: How can something that is ruined become perfect again? Applied to man, it can be rephrased as follows: Can man mend himself so as to become perfect? He can if his view on perfection is the same as the Creator’s and also if he is capable of achieving it. For even when his view on perfection is the same as the Creator’s, if he lacks or is insufficient in his capability to achieve it, the problem remains. My own experience shows that man is so fundamentally ruined that he lacks not only the right view, but also the capability to achieve it when it is revealed to him.
Why do I think so? Because of death! If man could achieve perfection by himself, nothing would prevent him from functioning perfectly and therefore eternally. There would be nothing to hinder him or ruin him.
Where is the place of sacrifice in all this? I will try to put myself in the Creator’s shoes for a moment. So, I have created a living being in such a way as not to get ruined but with the possibility to become ruined if he wishes it himself. I don’t want it, but he can either want it or decline it. Instead of declining it, he wishes it and ruins himself to an extent that he no longer knows me the way he had known me before, because his ability to perceive is also impaired the way the splinter of the troll-mirror in Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘Show Queen’ enters Kai’s heart and eyes and impairs his ability to percieve things and people rightly. This illustration is very appropriate because – apart from everything else – it shows something extremely important: ruin is not an inherent characteristic of man, but something from the outside that he had taken in. And this is one of the reasons why it can be mended.
How can it be mended? Since ruin is a result of the exercise of man’s will, its putting it right should again happen through the exercise of man’s will.
When does someone desire to be mended? When he experiences the effects of ruin and doesn’t like them. He who doesn’t like them will want to get rid of them and be mended. And when he fails to mend himself, he will seek help from someone else. And when he doesn’t find help from someone else, he will seek help from God. And then he will receive it. But for this to happen, God must come in contact with man. And that’s when sacrifice becomes necessary. God has to part with (probably an enormous amount of) His godliness, to abandon the advanatages it gives to Him, and ‘descend’ to man. And not only that, but He also has to come in contact with his ruin and mend it.
There are things that can happen in many ways, but there are also things that can happen in one way only. A choice that is as fundamental as the one between right and wrong and that corresponds to the choice of ‘either… or…’ imposes the respective uniqueness of the way of mending it. And since passing from the one state into the other involves passing from life to death, the reverse also involves passing through death again in order to get back to life.
In a sense each one of us is doing this while still living in this world. Our present existence is a combination of life and death in order to choose one of them. Life is in us, just as death is in us. Those attracted by good and responding by good are leaving death and getting into life more and more. Those attracted by bad and responding by bad are leaving life and getting into death more and more. This is true for the inner man and is proven by the facts of life. As for the outer man, the end is the same: the body dies. Why is it the same? For one, probably because of the equal start and because this is the most dramatic and decisive way that can make us understand that apart from the things that can happen in many ways, there are such that happen in one way only and which – having been chosen once – lead to only one result; and also, that there are things that are not subject to choice but a prerogative of the Creator Himself. It is true that man has power over life and death, but only within the boundaries of the existence defined by the Creator. No one can give birth to himself and no one can prolong his life if the Creator wills it differently.
Why is the inner man’s destiny different? Because this is how the Creator has ruled it to be and because the logic says it’s so. It’s like two people who have chosen to walk along two roads, one of which is ascending and the other one descending. Even if the difference is not big and the two may seem to be walking parallelly in the beginning, one of them will be ascending and the other onedescending with each successive step. The difference may be in hundredths of a millimeter, but it is there.
Is it possible however for the person walking on the ascending road to rise so as to reach the Creator? It would be possible if man could free himself from ruin completely. Ruin however never leaves alone as it cannot exist alone; it can only exist as distortion of rightness. The way we cannot create ourselves so also nothing else (including ruin) can create itself. Since it is vital for it to have somebody to sustain it, ruin will always stay in him as long as it can. Having been penetrated by it at all levels, we are not capable of either discerning it entirely or eradicating it entirely, which means that we need external help in order for this to happen. If this external help comes from another ruined being, it again wouldn’t be completely effective. It could be completely effective only when it comes from a Perfect Being because only a Perfect Being will know how to discern it and how to eradicate it. This in itself means that we have to believe in information that comes from a Being that is not us.
As a matter of fact, we are doing this all the time, particularly when we want to learn something about the world that surrounds us; then we always trust information that we receive from other beings. Some of it we verify; the other we just trust. If it is true, we succeed. If it isn’t, we fail. If we fail in reaching from point A to point B and reach point C instead, all of which are in this world, this is bad but not fatal. But if we fail in reaching eternal life because we have trusted in the belief that there is no life after death, our choice will be fatal.
The Bible says that the devil cheated the woman by saying that she would not die if she ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We all know what happened next. Today we hear the opposite: that man will not continue to exist after he dies, which is again contrary to what the Bible says: that man will live if he acknowledges his need of mending and accepts God’s way of mending him. This way, however, is not easy at all and is impossible to imitate, because it is a sacrifice – the sacrifice of the eternal God who only knows and is able to pay the punishment of the eternal separation of man from God through death by passing through it and then rising to life again in a state of sinlessness and perfection making Him capable of living forever with all human beings who have believed in His ability to do that and have experienced it themselves, being made capable to cope with ruin now and here, while still being in this world.
February – September 2018
“For God sent not the Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world should be saved through him. He that believeth on him is not judged: he that believeth not hath been judged already, because he hath not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, lest his works should be reproved. But he that doeth the truth cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest, that they have been wrought in God” (John, Chapter 3, verses 17-21; The American Standard Translation of The Holy Bible).