I remember particularly as a boy, though occasionally still today, hearing people close their prayers with the phrase, “in Christ’s name and for his sake we pray”. Have you ever thought about that phrase? Have you ever really considered what we are saying with that expression? We are asking God to look on the face of his only son and to deal with us on his merits, to essentially treat us as if we were him.
But that is only one side of the equation. God wants us to look upon the face of his son and for Christ’s sake suffer, serve, and glorify the Father.
We do a great many things for the sake of others. We hear parents say they will do just about anything “for the sake of my child”. We ask people for favors, often on behalf of others and request, “would you do it for my sake?” When we turn to the pages of Scripture, we see things being done there too for the sake of others. In the long ago, God promised Abraham regarding the city of Sodom for the sake of ten I will not destroy it (Genesis 18:32). David showed Mephibosheth kindness for the sake of Jonathan (2 Samuel 9:7). God did not take the kingdom from Solomon during his lifetime for the sake of David his father (1 Kings 11:12) Paul entreated Philemon in behalf of Onesimus for love’s sake (Philemon 1:9).
We are all familiar with the concept; accordingly, we are instructed to do certain things for “Christ’s sake.” Peter says we are to Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, speaking specifically of governmental officials. He raises the example of Jesus’ submission to authority, never reviling those who were abusing him even though he was unjustly accused. But how many of us honor the emperor when their political party doesn’t match up with our team? (1 Peter 2:13ff)
Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:31-32 that we are to forgive one another as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven us. If someone hurt your feelings, forgive them for Christ’s sake. And when we forgive, it is to be in just the same way that God in Christ has forgiven us. That means we forget. The, “I forgive you, but I won’t forget” business that we sometimes hear people say is completely foreign to Scripture. Thank God that he does not deal with us that way! He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:10-12). If we forgive for Christ’s sake, then we cannot bury the hatchet with the handle sticking out of the ground just in case we need it; we must act as if whatever the offense was never happened.
Remember that our own forgiveness before God is predicated on our willingness to forgive others. Jesus tells us plainly in the Sermon on the Mount that if we are not willing to forgive others, God will not forgive us. In the context in 1 Peter mentioned earlier, Peter writes that we should follow in the steps of Jesus. Nothing is more Christlike than to have compassion and exercise forgiveness. Do you remember, on the cross he prayed and said, Father, forgiven the, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34). Can we honestly pray, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us?
For the sake of Christ, we are to strive together in prayer (Romans 15:30). If we would strive together in prayer, we could bring more honor and glory to the Lord. There are numerous examples of this in the practice of the early church recorded in Acts. After they were threatened not to preach in the name of Jesus anymore by the Sanhedrin, Peter and John gathered with the rest of the church and they prayed (Acts 4). In Acts 12, we see the church again striving together in prayer. James had been put to death, and Peter was in prison awaiting the same fate. The church came together to unite and strive together in prayer.
For the sake of Christ we are to serve one another (2 Corinthians 4:5) Paul tells us they did not preach for the purpose of bringing glory to themselves. And if we are acting for Christ’s sake, we can think of his example here in particular: The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).
This list is certainly not exhaustive. But the point is, just as we are accustomed to doing things for the sake of others, so we are called to do things for the sake of Christ. If we are his people, it should make a visible difference in how we live our lives. How are we doing with that?