A Living Sacrifice
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing God – this is your true and proper worship.” (Romans 12:1)
What does it mean to offer your body “as a living sacrifice”? First, in order to answer that question, you have to understand that Paul was writing to followers of Jesus in Rome. And it was these followers of Jesus that he commanded to present their “bodies as a living sacrifice”. This isn’t simply a reference to their arms, legs, hands and feet. This is also a reference to who they are. Their beings. The decisions they make. The steps that they take. The very essence of who they are, as human beings.
Next, there’s the question of what it means to be a “living sacrifice”. For, up to that time in both the Roman world, as well as the Jewish world, sacrifices were all dead. At least they were all dead by the time the sacrificial ritual was complete.
Now Paul is commanding followers of Jesus to be “living sacrifices”. Thus, this sacrifice is much more than giving away your life in order to achieve something or receive something. More than simply about forgiveness of sins or appeasing God. This sacrifice is about who you are.
Forgiveness of sins was taken care of by Jesus on the cross. Appeasing God was taken care of by Jesus on the cross. Sacrifices are no longer needed, for those who put their faith in Jesus. So, what does Paul mean commanding followers of Jesus to be “a living sacrifice”?
Let’s put this in terms that everyone here can easily understand. Being a living sacrifice means to forgive someone who has hurt you. Being a living sacrifice means to resolve a dispute. Being a living sacrifice means to take on a less-than-satisfying job, in order to support your family. Being a living sacrifice means leaving a rewarding position, so someone that you love can accept their dream job in another city. Being a living sacrifice means being honest and taking the blame for a mistake that you have made. And on and on and on. You get the picture.
Every example you can think of about being a living sacrifice concerns who you are. A living sacrifice is your identity. It isn’t something that you do. It’s someone that you are.
And that’s Paul’s point. You have nothing to earn. You have nothing to prove. You have been given everything – life, forgiveness and a right relationship with God. Now, you are called to go out and live like it. Not because it’s what you do. But because it’s who you are.