Grace or Sacrifice?

Grace or Sacrifice? February 22, 2021

African Woman
Do we need more grace or more sacrifice? Church members brought animal sacrifices in Mozambique. Artwork by Susan E. Brooks

“Lots of people in the churches around here are offering animal sacrifices,” a lady in one of our Bible studies shared. 

Animal Sacrifices in Mozambique

Out in the villages of Mozambique, illiteracy was a problem, and preachers had too much power over their members. I suppose if you only read parts of the Old Testament, you might think animal sacrifice was required. The lay people were trying  to do something based on scripture, trying to please God.

Unfortunately, church leaders in Mozambique were abusing the Old Testament system of making animal sacrifices. They wanted some grilled chicken to go along with their homemade fries! Ministers were taking advantage of their congregants, telling them to bring a chicken to pay for their sins. In a country listed as the third poorest country in the world, this was egregious.

With the ladies in the Bible study, we read Hebrews 9 and 10, about the “once for all” voluntary sacrifice of Jesus for us (Heb. 9:11-14). He took care of everything.

Sacrifice in the American Church

At first blush, we in the American church might feel superior to my Mozambican friends. We don’t require animal sacrifices. We don’t shame people into giving of their resources to make up for their sins—or do we?

Maybe it’s just me, but as a working mom, I often felt shamed at church. I felt my church expected me to volunteer every night of the week. I just couldn’t. When would I spend time with my kids after working all day? When was I supposed to cook supper, do laundry, grade all of the papers I had carried home—forget rest, relax or have a minute to myself. And don’t even think about having time to meet anyone who might be outside of the church. 

And I was supposed to teach the Mozambicans a better way.

The Galatian Heresy

In the United States, you don’t have to offer chickens as sacrifices for the church. Instead, you must offer your time with your children, any spare resources you might have, your money, your rest, extended family—those are the sacrifices God requires of you. If you don’t give enough, then you should feel guilty, and you might not be “saved” if you haven’t done all of the right things. Great news, isn’t it? Another name for that is the Galatian heresy.

In the letter to the Galatians, the apostle Paul explained that faith in Jesus Christ is enough. That’s it. Nothing more needed. Period. Some of our churches require more. Jesus plus live this way. Jesus plus don’t do that. Nope. Just Jesus. He’s more than enough.

Grace or Sacrifice?

I love the church, and I love my country. While I was in Mozambique, just the mention of the Fourth of July brought tears to my eyes and a prayer of thanksgiving to my lips. I am so thankful I was born in the United States. But before we think we have it all together, and we’re ready to go straighten out the rest of the world, maybe we need to figure out the grace of God. I’m still trying to figure it out, but I think it has more to do with loving people as they are than making them feel guilty about not doing enough. “Never enough” is the voice too many of us hear in our heads, and that voice is not the voice of God. Do we need more grace or more sacrifice?


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