Sermon illustrations

Sacrificial Love

A Brother’s Sacrifice

An eight-year-old boy had a younger sister who was dying of leukemia, and he was told that without a blood transfusion she would die. His parents explained to him that his blood was probably compatible with hers, and if so, he could be the blood donor. They asked him if they could test his blood. He said sure. So they did and it was a good match. Then they asked if he would give his sister a pint of blood, that it could be her only chance of living. He said he would have to think about it overnight.

The next day he went to his parents and said he was willing to donate the blood. So they took him to the hospital where he was put on a gurney beside his six-year-old sister. Both of them were hooked up to IVs. A nurse withdrew a pint of blood from the boy, which was then put in the girl’s IV. The boy lay on his gurney in silence while the blood dripped into his sister, until the doctor came over to see how he was doing. Then the boy opened his eyes and asked, “How soon until I start to die?”

Taken from Ann Lammott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anchor Books, 1994.

Cruciform Love

Cruciform love is welcoming the immigrant simply because they bear the image of God, even if the only thing they bring to us is hassle and possible harm. Cruciform love is praying for those who persecute us, whether it be ISIS terrorists or political foes.

Cruciform love is serving and protecting our gay and lesbian neighbors, combating racism and hateful speech of all sorts, and advocating for the image-of-God dignity of every human being. It is embracing the homeless person despite the smell, healing the wounds of a soldier even if he is unjustly arresting us (Luke 22:51), and loving those we disagree with, even if they don’t love us back.

Cruciform love means clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, and ministering to the sick, the imprisoned, and the “least of these.” Cruciform love is the church financially supporting one another (1 Cor. 16: 1 – 4; 2 Corinthians 8 – 9; Gal. 2: 10), even if it is costly. C. S. Lewis says we should give financially to the point that it means going without some comforts and luxuries: “I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare…

There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charities expenditure excludes them.”  Love that is only convenient and conditional is not love. To love is to go out of your way, to be inconvenienced (like the Good Samaritan), to sacrifice for the sake of another.

Taken from Uncomfortable by Brett McCracken, © 2017, p.93. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.


The Emperor and the Whipping Boy

In 1987 director Bernardo Bertolucci released the film The Last Emperor to raving reviews. It was based on the autobiography of the last living emperor of the Manchu dynasty in China, Henry Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi (before its fall to the communists in the 1950s). Eventually the movie would be hailed “the most honored film in 25 years,” including nine Academy Awards (Oscars).

And while the story tells the riches to rags story of Yi’s life, from spoiled child emperor to imprisoned and tortured detainee after the revolution to his final seven years as a gardener in a Beijing Park, what is perhaps most interesting, at least for our sake, is one account towards the beginning of the film.

At this point, Yi is surrounded by the trappings of an imperial power. 1,000 eunuch servants exist to fulfill his every whim. At one point, Yi’s brother asks him what happens to him when he makes a mistake? The emperor responds, “when I do something wrong, somebody else is punished.” To demonstrate this, he picks up an ornate jar and smashes it on the ground. Immediately a servant is taken and beaten for the action of the emperor. It is, in a sense, a true version of the famous “whipping boy” story.

Why is this so interesting? Because it gives us a perfect contrast, the perfect opposite to what Jesus does on our behalf. From the world’s perspective, it is the poor and marginalized who are to bear the brunt of the world’s pain and blame. It is the unnamed servant who receives the punishment in this account, not the emperor. In the Christian story however, it’s just the opposite. The king takes the punishment on our behalf.

Stuart Strachan Jr., Source Content from The Last Emperor, Columbia Pictures, 1987. 

Hunting Bigger Game

Love is hunting for bigger game than happiness. Love is a union of souls. When one member of a couple suffers from Alzheimer’s, the other doesn’t just go away. Instead, as Lewis puts it, love says, “Better this than parting. Better to be miserable with her than happy without her. Let our hearts break provided they break together.”

David Brooks, The Second Mountain, Random House Publishing Group, 2019, p.163.


See also Illustrations on Divine Love (Agape), Generosity, JesusLove, Sacrifice

Still Looking for inspiration?

Consider checking out our quotes page on Sacrificial Love. Don’t forget, sometimes a great quote is an illustration in itself!

Follow us on social media: