I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1
Let’s just admit it, there’s something about the concept of “sacrifice” that is about as attractive as volunteering to have a bad day. Sacrifice means going hungry or “doing without.” It means eating the package so someone else can have the last piece of bacon – at least that’s how we think about it.
What makes this verse even more challenging is that at first pass it appears to say this sacrifice is a once and for all thing, because that’s the nature of a sacrifice, once it’s given its gone. So, you offer your body to God and it’s over, you - as you know and like you are gone, sacrificed, poured out, burned up, consumed, etc.
This is one of those verses we read with one eye closed and skim past to get on to the good stuff about spiritual gifts a few verses later. But it is worth remembering and reflecting on and believe it or not, even obeying.
It would really be easier if we only had to offer our bodies once and then we were gone, sacrificed, poured out, burned up, consumed, etc. because we all have moments when God breaks through our hard hearts and opens our blind eyes and we catch a brilliant glimpse of his glory. In those moments we would leap into him once and for all and be delighted to do it. That would be far “easier.” But to offer your body as a sacrifice is not a decision, it is a series of decisions. To offer yourself as a sacrifice to God means you continually evaluate who you are and all you own and to produce from your evaluation an ongoing series of choices to let God be God. When I was dating Kay (thirty plus years ago) a trip to Taco Bell was an extravagant sacrifice and a treasured treat. A trip to the drive through at Taco Bell today doesn’t have quite the same effect because things have changed; we have years of relationship and experience that redefine sacrifice and treasure. That’s what Paul means by a “living sacrifice.” Living things grow and change and experience – so what you offered God yesterday of your possessions and relationships and personality isn’t the same thing you can offer him today.
If you read a little further in Romans 12 you discover something about what God does with your sacrifice of you. He says he wired you to serve him – to prophesy, to teach, to serve, to give, to lead – and he exhorts you to fully be who he made you to be. When teachers teach and givers give and servants serve and leaders lead instead of being “gone, sacrificed, poured out, burned up, consumed, etc.” they find the fullest expression of themselves thriving in the Kingdom of Heaven. Far from dead or emptied out or used up they are fully alive, filled with purpose and satisfaction and energy. I think that is what it means to be a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.
Don’t slip past this verse. It is filled with hope and grace and the promise of life abundant.