A few weeks ago I wrote a post about how God never wanted animal sacrifices and how Jesus just forgave sins all the time without the shedding of blood, or even repentance from the person in advance. Specifically, I pointed out “7 Examples Where God Forgives Without Bloodshed.”
To add to that, I’d like to point out another difference between the Old Covenant concept of sacrifice and the New Covenant twist that Jesus brings to the equation.
Under the Old Covenant model [at least, as communicated by Moses] there is no forgiveness of sins without the shedding of blood; and this was in the context of an animal sacrifice, of course.
Later, Isaiah, Hosea and King David would all challenge this notion and suggest that such a thought never entered God’s mind and that God cares more about mercy than about sacrifices, and that God takes no pleasure in the blood of bulls and sheep and oxen, etc. [See Psalm 50:8; Hosea 6:6; Psalm 51:16; Psalm 40:6–8; Isaiah 1:11–31; Jeremiah 7:21–23]
But, when we come to the New Covenant, we still read about how Jesus was the sacrifice for our sins and that Jesus died for us, etc. So…what’s going on?
Well, what’s going on is a twist on the concept of sacrifice. Rather than framing sacrifice as something that must be done to appease the wrath of an angry God, sacrifice is now spoken of us a personal decision to lay down your life for the life of others in love. This is what Jesus did for us: He laid down his life, and he also encouraged us to take up our own crosses [symbolizing our willingness to die for one another out of love].
Paul talks about this as our “reasonable act of worship” in Romans 12. We are to follow Christ’s example and choose to become “living sacrifices” to God, as ambassadors of His Kingdom and messengers of God’s love for everyone.
So, under this New Covenant model, sacrifice isn’t about killing a third party to obtain forgiveness. It’s now about receiving God’s unconditional love and forgiveness, and as a result choosing to follow Christ’s example as a servant of others who “gives up their life” for the good of everyone else.
In other words, the love of Christ compels us to live sacrificially because we have already received God’s forgiveness. It’s not a condition of our forgiveness, it’s a sign that we have already received it, freely. Now, we are empowered to freely give [because we have freely received] this amazing love and mercy and forgiveness to everyone we meet.
That’s a big shift.
So, in response to the audacious, extravagant, unmerited love and favor of God that has been poured out on us through Christ, we cannot help but surrender our lives to mirror this self-sacrificial love to others – because it’s just too good to keep it to ourselves!
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