[forthright] The Value of a Child

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From: Forthright Magazine <ba@...>
Date: Sat, 28 Feb 2004 09:04:58 -0600
Forthright Magazine
Straight to the Cross

COLUMN: Field Notes

The Value of a Child
By Michael E. Brooks

"Sacrifice and offering you did not desire… In
burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin you had no
pleasure" (Heb. 10:5,6).

It is easy for people who live in so-called
"Christian" cultures to assume that animal
sacrifice is an obsolete custom, long vanished
from the earth. Many Americans and Western
Europeans have never seen an altar, or animals
prepared for burnt offerings.

In other parts of the world, however, such
sacrifices are still very much a part of life.
Eid, the second most sacred festival of the
Islamic calendar, was celebrated this year in
early February. It lasts several days, and is
commemorated with various rituals, but one of the
most important of these is the day of "Corbani" –
on which every pious Muslim offers an animal
sacrifice. The days before Eid are noted for the
huge numbers of bulls and goats offered for sale.
On the afternoon of Corbani one sees trucks and
rickshaw vans piled high with skins of the
slaughtered animals being taken to the tanneries.
The sacrifices themselves provide food for the
worshipper and for the poor to whom some of the
meat is given.

Unfortunately, the absence of animal sacrifice
from Western culture is sometimes mistakenly taken
to mean that no sacrifices are given or expected
in Christianity. Nothing could be further from the
truth. Though our New Testament affirms that God
is no longer worshipped through offerings given on
fires, it is also full of requirements for other
forms of sacrifice. These include the "living
sacrifice" of our own bodies (Rom. 12:1), the
"sacrifice of praise" as we give thanks to God
(Heb. 13:15), and the self-sacrifice which
precedes our following Jesus (Matt. 16:24).

The fact that these sacrifices are not accompanied
by bloodshed, or fire, or smoke, or ash, in no
sense lessens their reality or their importance.
The fact is that "the blood of bulls and goats
cannot take away sin" or otherwise appease God
(Heb. 10:4). Nothing which humans do can remove
the guilt or the consequences of our sin. Only God
can do that, through the satisfaction of his
justice provided by the death of his son, Jesus.
Our sacrifices, whatever their nature, earn us
nothing. The genuine sacrifices of self-denial and
worship do glorify God, however. They also
indicate our faith in and commitment to God
through Jesus. And there-in lies their value. It
is not what we do to impress or obligate God. It
is what we do that reveals our genuine response of
faith and trust in Jesus, and our submission to
his will.

This is why the only real sacrifice that can be
offered today is sacrifice of self. We die to
self, and to sin. We die with Christ and through
Christ. And in so doing we take his ultimate
sacrifice for ourselves and receive its benefits.
We renounce any claim to goodness of our own and
rest all our hope in the goodness God gives us
through the sacrifice he made for us. That is all
the goodness that will ever be required and far
more than we could otherwise attain.

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