For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8
I’m pretty sure I can guess which story pops into your head when someone says, ‘love requires sacrifice.’ The story of Jesus’ sacrifice is most likely that story. What a great, wonderful story about a completely selfless act, initiated by the Father and carried out by Jesus. In the history of the universe, no other story carries with it the same intense love. However, there is one in recent human history that is a small shadow of Jesus’ story.
The Polish soldier, Franciszek Gajowniczek, was in Auschwitz, and was chosen to die by starvation, along with 9 others, because of a prisoner escape. Upon hearing his selection, he began to weep because his wife would be a widow and his children fatherless. Friar Maxmillian Kobel stepped forward, as a 47-year old Catholic Franciscan priest, and took his place. After 15 days of suffering and starvation, Fr. Kobel was put to death by an injection of carbolic acid.
Even this human example of self-sacrifice is hard to imagine. Loving others is a sacrifice, not often to the degree that Jesus or Fr. Kobel exhibited, but to some, it can feel that way. Love requires vulnerability, effort, time, patience, and many other things. Depending on past experiences, suffering emotional pain might result. This experience makes this sacrifice of love all the more difficult to initiate.
And yet, we are called to love, and without qualifications. It’s not an optional thing, really (1 John 3:11). We’re called to love God and others (Matthew 22:36-40). We return blessings in love for evil and hate (1 Peter 3:8-9). Perhaps the biggest sacrifice we offer in love is ourselves. We’re really opening ourselves up to many things that might not be pleasant to experience, but in this vulnerable posture, we follow the leading of Christ, loving as he loved, with an ultimate human example in Fr. Kobel (John 13:34).
As you go through each day, remember the example of love Jesus demonstrated towards us. It might help to remember Fr. Kobel, too. I’m not suggesting love requiring one’s life, rather one that extends the hand of love to our neighbor. These demonstrations can start small, like holding the door for someone, or however else the Lord might lead you. It could be a kind word or two is all someone needs to lift their day. Be attentive to the Holy Spirit’s leading, and then do it!
By Rich Obrecht