By Unknown – http://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/online-gallery/on-line-gallery/obra/agnus-dei-the-lamb-of-god/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=160338
Sometimes an idea grows in you and you know it will tease out of you a sense of truth. I struggle with the meaning of sacrifice but I know in exploring it and confronting it, wrestling with it, I will grow.
Religious sacrifice appears barbaric- we do not indulge in ritual killing. We do not believe our future depends on rituals. Our freedom is maintained through punishment or the threat of punishment. Our politicians draw boundaries for our nation and join other nations to unite around what are considered fundamental boundaries of behaviour. In a wide sense, forces are engaged to maintain and enforce these boundaries. Sometimes we go to war to protect what we believe to be right. No ritual sacrifice is made to ensure success.
Freedom is won by ensuring that those who decide are independent of those who enforce and those who witness. In the UK we have parliament, the judiciary and the free press. Each binds each to rules of being and when they are truly independent there is a chance of peace. This peace is won against a backdrop of humanity’s inherent violence and self will. Punishment is directed against the forces of chaos. For this we sacrifice our freedoms and we sacrifice our soldiers.
The expression, “For the greater good,” is one with a deep meaning especially for those who wield power. People are convinced that through harm, even violence, good will come. The cause of defending our freedom makes the violent into heroes. We understand that there is no greater love than the love that willingly lays down its life for another. This makes sacrifice decent. For another to die for us is deeply problematic to us and we are desperately concerned that when lives are sacrificed, or we sacrifice the lives of others, the reason is justified. We sacrifice the innocent as collateral for the greater good but insist on it being proportionate and just.If not, then we will sacrifice the reputation of the decision makers, however innocent, so that justice is done and, if necessary, we punish the decision makers.
There is a just price to pay. We know there are those in the world who believe the sacrifice of our lives is a just price. We call them terrorists. The sacrifice of our lives pays the price for their sense of injustice and they are willing to sacrifice their own lives to take ours to redress the balance.
Every parent knows the sacrifice they would make for their family. They would give their very lives for their children and embrace death rather than see their child or partner killed. They would suffer rather than see their child want for anything. We understand this sacrifice. In our families we understand the need for justice and mercy.
For better or worse our sacrifices reveal what we hold sacred.
I think that if we stop and consider, we experience sacrifice more than we think and on this foundation we can built an understanding of the Cross.
Here are some ideas in the order they came: