Romans 12 is a laundry list of do’s and don’t’s, just what atheists think the whole bible is. But it is also an amazing compilation of some of our most beloved and useful verses.
“Don’t conform but be transformed by God.
Use the gift you’ve been given.
Hate evil; cling to good.
Be devoted to God’s family.
Be zealous in your faith.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Share with Christians in need.
Bless those who persecute you.
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
Live in harmony with each other.
Don’t be proud.
Associate with those in low positions.
Don’t be conceited.
Don’t repay evil for evil.
Do what is right.
Live at peace with everyone.
Don’t take revenge.
Care for your enemies.
Overcome evil with good.”
This list differentiates between how we are to interact with fellow believers and how we are to interact with the world. But in both, there is a common theme: Be Like Jesus.
And in regards to that, Paul begins this section with the amazing call to offer yourself as a living sacrifice. Sacrifices in the context of Paul’s world were killed before they were sacrificed. Lambs (or oxen or pigeons or…) were taken to the priest at the temple who then expertly slaughtered the animal, cutting it’s throat. It was then offered as a dead sacrifice.
So what would it mean, what does Paul specifically mean, to offer ourselves as living sacrifices? First, we offer ourselves. Rather than offering a lamb or a bull or a pigeon, rather than offering money or a hostage, we offer ourselves – this is between us and God. Second, it is we who do the offering. We don’t give ourselves over to someone else to offer us – this is between us and God. Third, we don’t offer ourselves once we’re dead but right here and right now in the midst of our busy, productive, sinful, painful, boring, exciting lives. We offer ourselves as living sacrifices, and in so doing give God the greatest gift we possibly can – relationship, obedience, Christ-likeness.