I've been thinking a lot about it, sacrifice. It's a heavy topic. It has so many layers... and almost none of them appeal to base human nature.
The ultimate sacrifice is Jesus Christ: Died for us, thus allowing us eternal life if we accept the gift of His life. Salvation is a gift, so I think I am safe in saying that His offering it is a gift, too—and sacrifice was the form in which it was offered. So, could I say that sacrifice is a gift, no matter the giver? Is that a safe blanket statement?
Sometimes sacrifices are made out of a sense of duty, but is it any less a gift when it takes the dutiful form? Sacrifice is difficult at best. Even Christ Himself asked if there was another way (Luke 22:42).
The part I keep revisiting is this: that the gift was given to the unknowing. The penultimate sacrifice was done for all, not just those who knew and were grateful. In fact, probably no one knew and understood, at the time before His crucifixion, what was being done for them. Disciples tried to talk Jesus out of it; they attempted violent intervention (Matthew 26:51). We like-minded recipients, grateful though we are down the road, often don't even recognize the gift when it is first offered, let alone referenced.
We, too, are to be sacrificial in our actions; we are to love others, and to offer up ourselves on their behalf. I grasp that sacrifice is to be performed even for all, including the unknowing. Jesus was sacrificed for our sins, and the gain for us is salvation and eternal life with our Creator.
But what of the earthly, man-offered sacrifice where not even the recipient benefits? When, if ever, does sacrifice become foolish and misguided? In the same way that tough love must sometimes be enacted for the greater good of the recipient, might not sacrifice be suspended for the greater good of all involved when no one is the better for that sacrifice? When is the right time to withdraw sacrifice? When must an honest man or woman examine the situation and change directions completely? Must death be the deciding factor, or are their lesser factors that bring about the same need for re-examination of purpose and result? Do the defining actions of sacrifice change when eternal life is not at stake?
These are the ponderous, burdensome thoughts in my troubled mind these days. I pray for clear direction, for myself and those around me. I pray and I pray, and still I do not pray enough. I know there is so much more to say about this topic, yet I've fought a migraine all day, and to research the topic further would require deep reading... which would, in turn, heighten the migraine. Thus, I am deterred.
Therefore, I leave you in a swirling fog. But you are not alone there.