David Brooks in a recent column in the NY Times talks about a community in South Carolina that brings together as many people in their area that have an impact on child’s life in order to find ways to improve their development. The idea seems to have merit to me, as Brooks points out, there are many different things that contributes to a child’s development. Approaches that take in consideration the varied impacts that society has a child can improve their living conditions. The problem though is that ultimately only one of the influences in a child’s life can truly be the “magic bullet” to improve their lives. That is a child’s parents. That influence though can only be at its best however with sacrificial parenting. Every child has parents, it’s a biological necessity, and those parents have an impact on the child, whether they want it or not. But only sacrificial parenting will create an environment for a child not only to survive, but truly thrive. A child needs someone who place the child’s interests ahead of their own, and a community “parent”, like a teacher or other person of influence, can never really place the child’s full interests ahead of their own. There are too many others in a community that have competing interests.
In thinking about this however, it seems to me that’s true in life generally. In order for society to not just survive, but thrive, self-sacrifice is necessary. It’s one of the reasons why holidays like Memorial day become so important. These days are a recognition that our society is alive because people have placed others interests ahead of their own. This is one of the reasons our society seems to be crumbling, all of the major movements in our culture are about standing up for personal “rights”, instead of serving and dying for others.
For Christians this is incredibly important because the core of the Christian faith is sacrifice for others. Christians believe that they are saved because God himself became a man in order to die for their salvation. We are commanded by Jesus to imitate him in this kind of act. If we are going to improve our culture it will only happen with that imitation, there really is no substitute. Other things can help some, but self-sacrifice is the only “magic bullet”. The title of this piece can seem like a paradox; how can a person live if they sacrifice themselves? Sacrifice doesn’t usually mean the ultimate sacrifice of giving my entire life, but it does mean that there are times I give up what I want so that others might receive. This is what a good parent should routinely do for their children, but it’s also what Christians are taught to do as part of their lives. Sacrificial living is a necessity for us.