“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, on the basis of God’s mercy, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable act of worship.” – Romans 12:1
Last Sunday I was preparing to preach on Romans 12:1-2. COVID change those plans. However, the work that I put into that sermon still has value.
Romans 12:1 begins with a “therefore” which is a signpost telling us to look at Romans 11. Romans 11 ends with Paul teaching about the broad power of God’s mercy. A mercy that is described as an “irrevocable” gift. This mercy is offered to all who need it. God’s mercy covers humanity because of God’s goodness not because of humanity’s merit. Romans 12 builds upon this mercy.
On the basis on this mercy, Paul appeals to us “to present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice”
Paul’s exhortation is rooted in Jewish sacrificial system. In modern parlance, “sacrifice” often has a negative connotation to it. We talk about the sacrifices we have to make. We would rather not sacrifice. But for Paul and the Jewish system, sacrifice has a positive connotation. It is way the people have for reconnecting and reconciling valued relationships. Paul modifies the sacrificial analogy in two ways. First, he says that we don’t bring a sacrifice but that we are the sacrifice. Second, he says that we are a “living” sacrifice. In the sacrificial system the sacrifice was killed and the singular act was all that was needed for a set period of time. However, Paul is saying that our whole lives are an offering to God. This is not about saying a saving prayer and then going back to life as usual. This is not about being a part of a Christian community two Sundays out of the year and calling it good. This is even not about being a morally upright person in your relationships. Through Paul, God is calling us to offer our full day-to-day lives.
The mercy of God covers our entire lives from start to finish. When the grace of God touches our lives, it redeems every aspect. God’s grace isn’t partial, it doesn’t just touch the religious part of our life, it doesn’t just touch our emotions or our intellect. It extends beyond the now to touch, past and future. God’s grace and love for us are complete and wholistic.
And just as God’s grace redeems us completely, so also does God’s call ask for us fully. God’s calling upon our lives is for our whole lives.
Eugene Peterson’s interpretation of Romans 12:1 in The Message sums it up nicely.
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering”