Sooner or later, love is tested by sacrifice. Indeed, one could say that sacrifice lies at the heart of love. To love is not only to will the good of the other, but also to be willing to take action to bring about the good of the other, and such action often requires sacrifice of some sort. This is why James draws a distinction in his letter between merely willing the good of another and actually doing something to help bring about that good: “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?” (James 2:15-16). Sacrifice lies at the heart of love because love is all about the gift of self, and one of the best (but also one of the most difficult) ways to give the gift of self to another is to be willing to sacrifice for the sake of their good.
Unfortunately, we live in a society that increasingly devalues and sometimes even ridicules sacrifice, unless it is a “sacrifice” made in the pursuit of self-centered goals. Our mainstream culture understands, values, and even admires personal “sacrifices” made for the sake of increased wealth, career advancement, a chiseled physique, etc. But self-sacrifice voluntarily undertaken for the sake of the good of others? Not so much. People who choose to risk their lives to protect the safety of others as police officers; people who join the military out of a desire to serve their country; parents who forego a higher income in order to have one parent stay home full-time to raise their children, or even people who choose to take on the responsibilities, the expense, etc., of having children at all—none of these sacrifices tend to be respected or valued very much by our mainstream culture these days.