Ephesians 5:2 – “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Why do you do kind things for people? Who do you do kind things for? From small, simple gestures to profoundly generous gifts, we Christians use acts of kindness as one form of doing good. In Ephesian 4:32, Paul commands us, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” In coming to Christ and becoming more like Him, we put aside the selfishness and impurity of our pre-Christ days and are called to display our new life through doing what is pleasing to the Lord, such as forgiving and showing kindness to others.
But Ephesians 5:2 raises this conviction within me: how do I love sacrificially, as Christ did? Back in the Old Testament, people would offer sacrifices to God to atone for sin, ask for forgiveness, as acts of humility or fellowship, or to give to God what is rightfully His, among other reasons. The smoke from these burnt offering would often be described as “fragrant”, and people would hope the Lord found the aroma from their sacrifices pleasing. The Israelites were called to give their always give their best, as in Leviticus 22:20: “You shall not offer anything that has a blemish, for it will not be acceptable for you.” The specific phrasing “without blemish” comes up again and again. I remember as well in 2 Samuel 24:24, the old King David saying “I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.” The Lord deserves the best we have to give Him, for ultimately all we have comes from Him. Moreover, a sacrifice must be exactly that; it has to truly cost us something, be it our time, money, work, or however you may give. For if you don’t really feel the effects of your giving, how truly sacrificial is it?
What greater sacrifice could there be than the sacrifice Christ made on the cross? The blameless and spotless Son of God offered Himself as a sacrifice for our atonement. And just as Paul commands of the church at Ephesus here, so does he say to us that our actions should emanate a love that mirrors Christ’s death. Christ did not low-ball our eternal salvation. He did not try to bargain His contribution to the forgiveness of our sins. The lamb of God, without blemish, gave everything on our behalf.
We recently went through Romans in our church, and one verse that has particularly stuck with me on sacrificial love was Romans 5:8: “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The recurring, humbling thought I have that ties to this verse in Ephesians is how incredible Christ is that He would willingly accept death for someone who totally did not deserve it. Yet despite us being unredeemed at that time, Christ showed us sacrificial love on a level beyond understanding of those who stake their existence solely in this life. That is the incomparable quality of the offering raised on behalf of our sanctification. That mind-blowing love is what we are called to live, just as Christ did.
So again, why do you do kind things, and who do you do them for? Are your kind deeds reserved for those who deserve it? Are they done only for those close to you, so you may personally see and enjoy the benefits of those kind acts? Or are they done for all, unseen acts of kindness, even for those who you find it difficult to show kindness to? Or those who’ll never know you for your actions, nor repay you for your works? Do you give for the glory of God? By our own ambitions, it can be easier to give to those who you already know; but what of all those with hardened hearts and hopeless lives, the lost sheep who need Christ’s incomparable love more than anything else they’ll find in this life? Just as Christ offered Himself for all of us when we were not justified or deserving, the world needs us more than ever to show this Christ-centered and Christ-glorifying love.