Tim Keller writes of the substitutionary sacrifice of parenting in his book King’s Cross.
If God is really a loving God, why doesn’t he just forgive everybody? Why did Jesus have to go through suffering into death? Why did he have to be a ransom?
Here’s the beginning of an answer: Jesus didn’t have to die despite God’s love; he had to die because of God’s love. And it had to be this way because all life-changing love is substitutionary sacrifice…
Think about a dramatic example of substitutionary sacrifice – parenting. When you have children, they’re in a state of dependency. They have so many needs; they can’t stand on their own. And they will not just grow out of their dependency automatically. The only way that your children will grow beyond their dependency into self-sufficient adults is for you to essentially abandon your own independence for twenty years or so. When they are young, for example, you’ve got to read to them and read to them – otherwise they won’t develop intellectually. Lots of their books will be boring to you. And you have to listen to your children, and keep listening as they say all kinds of things that make for less than scintillating conversation.
And then there’s dressing, bathing, feeding, and teaching them to do these things for themselves. Furthermore, children need about five affirmations for every criticism they hear from you. Unless you sacrifice much of your freedom and a good bit of your time, your children will not grow up healthy and equipped to function. Unfortunately, there are plenty of parents who just won’t do it. They won’t disrupt their lives that much; they won’t pour themselves into their children. They won’t make the sacrifice. And their kids grow up physically, but they’re still children emotionally – needy, vulnerable, and dependent. Think about it this way: You can make the sacrifice, or they’re going to make the sacrifice. It’s them or you. Either you suffer temporarily and in a redemptive way, or they’re going to suffer tragically, in a wasteful and destructive way. It’s at least partly up to you.
All real, life-changing love is substitutionary sacrifice…Therefore it makes sense that a God who is more loving than you and I, a God who comes into the world to deal with the ultimate evil, the ultimate sin, would have to make a substitutionary sacrifice.
These are insightful words as we remember the sacrificial death of our Lord Jesus, and the sacrifice he calls us to as his disciples.