Wednesday, May 07, 2008

"The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord" (Proverbs 15:8)

Reading this evening, I realized how easily deceived we are if we do not understand the uselessness of sacrifice. Sacrifice does not in itself sanctify what is otherwise abominable. Paul begins his discourse on love in 1 Corinthians 13 by making just this point, because real love is only possible if we first get this straight:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
And though I have prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

All these things, if not arising from the love of God, are abominable - and futile. Look, if I'm going to be put through changes like having my body burned, I don't want it to profit me nothing!

What a hard concept: "Sacrifice and offering you have not desired" (Psalm 40:6).

But if we don't get this, we will honor evil just because it's a sacrifice. Why else do people in church pray for the safety and success of men invading other people's countries and murdering them in large numbers, devastating their land and poisoning it with depleted uranium, breaking into their homes in the middle of the night and dragging them away, taking women hostage and on occasion raping them - and all to dominate them and subdue them to the greed of empire! And it's clear what they pray for when they pray for the safety of these men - the torment and death of countless innocent people - because if the resistance had been killing a couple of hundred a week and shooting down a helicopter every day from the get-go, millions of people driven from their homes would still live in peace, hundreds of thousands would still be alive, and thousands of young girls would be in school in Iraq instead of turning tricks in Damascus and Amman so their families don't starve.

Of course those praying for all this would take a different view if this were being done by some other nation's soldiers in their own neighborhoods. What they would abhor if done to themselves and their own they prescribe for others, in complete contempt of the very well-known word of Jesus, who said, "Whatever you want men to do to you, do so to them."

And all this delusion because we think there is something noble in itself about sacrifice - honored by men, but abhorred by the God of truth.

And how do we know our sacrifice is abominable? Two points come to mind:
1) Are we proud of this sacrifice, convinced that it bestows virtue upon us? If so, look no further, because as it is written, everyone that is proud in heart is abominable to the Lord.
2) Are we nobly resisting the temptation to be decent human beings? As Jesus said to his disciples, days are coming when those who kill you will think they are doing service to God, so it's no marvel if those who murder and dispossess in our names think that they are doing their duty.

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