“Present your bodies a sacrifice (Romans 12:1).”
When an Israelite would bring a sacrifice to the temple, the body would be disposed of in a variety of ways—outside the camp, burned up on the altar, or as barbecue in the bellies of the worshipers—but the blood belonged to God behind the curtain.
They must’ve wondered, “What goes on behind the curtain—that curtain that separates this age from the age to come?”
In fear, we think it must be endless torture for those sacrificial victims.
But God didn’t hate lambs, oxen, and pigeons; he received them as sacred offerings.
That’s also the way in which he referred to Canaanites in cities like Jericho.
Sure, he would get angry with them, but they themselves were to be offered as gifts to him.
They were devoted offerings. That is human sacrifice, “herem,” in Hebrew.
Actually, it’s the origin of the Arabic word, “Harem,” as in “The King’s Harem.”
The Edomites, (descendants of Esau, Isaiah 34:5), the Israelites, (descendants of Jacob, Isaiah 42:8), and “all nations,” (that would include you, Isaiah 34:2) were, and are, also “herem.”
The violence is terrifying; it’s terrifying to think that God would violate your will.
And yet, if God would never violate your will, wouldn’t you be forever enslaved to your will, that is your sin? Jesus came to save us from our sin, for our sin is Hell (Hell #1: Hades).
But here’s a thought: God cannot violate your will if you freely surrender your will, if you kneel in a garden and pray, “Nevertheless, not my will but thy will be done,” if you “present your body a sacrifice—living, holy, and pleasing to God—your logical service of worship.”
Many years ago, I was driving home from our evening worship service with my fourteen-year-old daughter. Out of the silence and rather distressed, she said, “Dad, I saw something tonight. . . When people came forward for communion, these ‘cutter things’ swung out from the walls and cut off arms, legs, and heads and stuff . . . But Dad, it was so cool. They would hobble to the table, take communion, and then, as they would hobble around the table, they would bump into each other. And when they bumped into each other in the place they’d been cut, they’d like fuse. They all bumped and fused until they became one giant man who wasn’t scared and could never be hurt.”
I now see my daughter’s vision on every page of Scripture and in every moment of time.
I think she caught a glimpse of the other side of the curtain.
“Present your bodies a sacrifice… Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind… Think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For… we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another (Roman 12:1-5).”
In Chapter three, Paul taught us that we are made righteous by the faith in Christ’s blood, like the oxygen in your blood. God assigns the faith as a gift and Jesus is the measure. And yet Jesus taught that the measure you get is the measure you give.
Life is Love and real Love is Sacrifice (“In this is love wrote John”). Sacrifice in this age, in which one moment follows another in space and time, often feels like death for one and life for another. But what if, rather than considering myself a container of life, I considered myself to be a conduit of life, like a pipe or a blood vessel? Then the giving would always be the receiving and sacrifice would never be death but always life—actually a river of life flowing through one body, a healthy happy eternal body.
Paul then describes the gifts and the giving in the Body of Christ; he describes genuine love.
If I have to make myself love, if for me love is a law, then my love is disingenuous—it’s not free.
In Romans 12:3-13, there are no imperative verbs in the Greek text. And yet, the English translator has added thirteen, which turns thirteen observations into thirteen commands.
In Romans 12:2, Paul issues two commands: “Don’t be conformed to this age” and “be transformed by the renewal of your minds.” Both happen when we present our bodies a sacrifice.
But in Romans 12:3-13, Paul is not telling us what to do; he is describing something that he sees being done. I think he sees what my daughter saw at our service of worship, the other side of the curtain.
If we preach the Word, we preach Jesus, and Jesus means “God is Salvation.”
“God is Salvation” is an absolute judgment on the belief that you are your own salvation.
If we preach Jesus, the Word will cut Me-sus, that is our “flesh,” that is your ego.
It will cut away the fig leaves that we all employ to hide our shame, the fact that each of us is incomplete and different.
But incomplete and different doesn’t have to be a curse; on my honeymoon, I discovered it was a tremendous blessing. And Paul teaches us that this blessing is a sacrament and a sign pointing to the day that we will all be bound in an eternal covenant of communion that is not death but, rather, the Eternal Life which constitutes the ecstasy that is the Kingdom of Heaven, the other side of the curtain.
We don’t need you to be the same as anyone else, but different than everyone else; we need you to be yourself or we can’t be our self, and I can’t be myself.
We need you to be yourself, but you can only find yourself if you lose yourself in Jesus; you are what I also am: the Body of Christ; I am “Christ in me,” the Life flowing from you into me and me into you.
Present your bodies a sacrifice:
#1) Come to worship (in person and online) and let the Word cut you.
#2) Bump into people, particularly at the point of the wound.
We can’t build the Church.
But by the Grace of God, we can preach a Word that will cut Me-sus from Jesus.
And by the Grace of God, we can encourage you to bump into your neighbor at the point of the wound.
And from our bodies, Jesus will build his giant Body that is not scared and cannot be hurt.
We can’t build the Church; he will build his Church with us.