Sacrifice—an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy (Oxford Dictionaries).


‘This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?’ (1 John 3:16–17).

‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another’ (John 13:35).


Sometimes, compassion for people struggling amid their particular life circumstances can rise more quickly within us than at other times. During times of disaster, for example, donations towards the welfare of victims/survivors can surge quickly into the millions. We are impacted by the tragic images of homes destroyed and people struggling with their loss.

It’s similar with the Self-Denial Appeal in The Salvation Army. We see the images of people struggling, particularly with poverty and the lack of resources for living, and we want to contribute. Worldwide, in the 2021/2022 financial year, GBP 24.8 million pounds was donated to the Self-Denial Appeal (source: The Salvation Army Year Book 2023, Salvation Books, p.60).

As we have seen, the Scriptures encourage us to give generously out of the love of God. And 1 John 3:16 and 17 particularly encourage us to give sacrificially ‘for our brothers and sisters’. Let’s spend some time unpacking this term. Just who are our ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’?

That’s an important question for us at self-denial time. The answer is multi-layered. There is our universal family comprising our fellow human beings on earth – our ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ who share our common humanity. There is our national family comprising all fellow Aussies, or Fijians, or Kiwis, or Samoans or Tongans, who share a local identity. And there are the ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ from individual family units.

In these particular verses, the writer applies this concept of being ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ to people who have a common love for Jesus Christ. This is our family of faith whose origins are with our triune God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God calls us to look out for and support our ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ in Christ. In both John’s Gospel and the writings of the Apostle Paul, we are called ‘children of God’ (John 1:12, Romans 8:16).

We are part of a unique and beautiful family anchored in the love of God and, subsequently, in being the hands of God’s love to each other as ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’. At Self-Denial time, we get to support those of our brothers and sisters appointed to serve in countries where resources are few and living conditions much more challenging than at home. They have sacrificed comfort to be available for mission. We give sacrificially from our own resources to support them and the mission they have undertaken.

In a very real sense, our giving is at the heart of being the family of God—of putting the love of God we share into action. Being ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ rises to a whole new level as a result of the radical transformation that happens when we become children of God. This transformation shows itself in action through a supernatural love that is birthed within us for others in the family of faith.

But we cannot assume that the beauty of the love of God in us will remain untainted by the world or not subject to unhelpful ways of being from our past life that can show up in our new life. Love needs intentional nurture. In a very real way, through self-evaluation particularly, we can measure the love of God in us. At any time, it can be a litmus test of the genuineness or the extent of our faith.

That’s what the writer suggests in 1 John 3:17: ‘If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?’ And Jesus’ message in John 13:35 puts it into the positive: ‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’

We cannot pick and choose when we seek and show God’s love. It is a constant test, requiring regular self-assessment; and not only during times like the Self-Denial Appeal. At any time, even daily, we can ask ourselves: If the presence of God’s love in my life is the true test of my faith, just how much love do I have—for God, for my brothers and sisters, for our mission together in the world? We can also ask ourselves: How do I demonstrate love in action?

In last Sunday’s video, we looked at the work of The Salvation Army in Tonga. Here, as in countries we have observed in previous weeks, our Salvation Army family of faith is working with limited resources to bring transformation to the people of Tonga—people we can regard as our wider human family. The love of God in us applies to them all—whether our brothers and sisters within or our brothers and sisters without.


Consider that love is the supreme test of our faith in God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Spend some time evaluating the love of God in your life. Here are some questions that might help:

  • Do I have time for others in my daily schedule?
  • Have I left room in my budget for others, or only my own expenses?
  • During this year’s Self-Denial Appeal so far, have I feltconnected with my family of faith and wider human family in the Philippines, Indonesia and Tonga?
  • What does a sacrifice of love look like for you in the context of Self-Denial?


Lord, you are so good and so giving and so loving and so full of grace in your embrace of all the peoples of the earth. I can see that this is who you are. I pray for more of your love and a special ability to give more of myself to others. I pray you might bless and inspire me as I consider my gift to the Self-Denial Appeal. Amen.