SACRIFICE. It’s not a word that we use much these days. And when we do use it, it has a fairly safe and tame meaning.
Whether it’s an elite athlete sacrificing his leisure time to do the extra yards at training, or maybe our financial advisor has advised us to ‘salary sacrifice’ some of our pay into our super.
It carries this kind of connotation of giving up something now in order to get a better pay-off down the track.
But Anzac Day reminds us that this term means far more than merely doing a cost-benefit analysis.
Sacrifice, for the Anzacs, meant putting their very lives on the line. Theirs was not a self-focussed decision based on what they might get out of offering themselves to the call.
Many of them knew that they would likely never see the benefits of their sacrifice.
They knew that what they were doing, they were doing for others. For their country, for their families, for the ideals of freedom and peace, for their mates.
Some have likened the global struggle against the spread of COVID-19 to a war, though it’s hard to see how they compare.
While the economic consequences and even the level of casualties might end up being similar, I think those who have served in a warzone might want to remind us of the vast difference.
But for many of us who would ordinarily go about our lives without really thinking too much about how our actions affect those around us, the convergence of these two events – the COVID-19 lockdowns and Anzac Day – should make us pause and think.
What are we willing to sacrifice for someone else? In the early days of the crisis, the fear invoked by the news from overseas and the unknown impacts of the disease caused many people to lock themselves down even before the government imposed any restrictions.
Now, though, as we start to feel the impact of our own personal ‘sacrifices’, more and more people are calling for restrictions to ease and even openly flouting the lockdowns that have been imposed.
Why is this? Is it perhaps because we are unwilling to make even relatively small sacrifices in our lives primarily for the benefit of someone else?
As a follower of Jesus, Anzac Day helps to remind me of the nature of true sacrifice. That I owe my very life and identity to the sacrifice of another on my behalf.
Just before He willingly went to the cross to die the death that I (and in fact all of us) deserved, Jesus spoke these words to His followers: ‘My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’
Many Anzacs were inspired by these words as they willingly sacrificed their lives for the sake of others. Maybe this is the message of love and sacrifice we need to hear this year.
Donovan Jasper, New Life Baptist Church