After eleven chapters of theology, Paul says, “therefore,” and now tells us what to do.
Romans 11:32-12:1, “God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all…. For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. I appeal to you therefore, brothers, to present your bodies a sacrifice—living, holy, and perfect, which is your logical service of worship.”
The logical implication of all that Paul has taught us is to present our bodies a sacrifice.
And we think: “Um. . . I don’t think so; Paul can’t actually mean that.”
I’ve been told that Jesus sacrificed to end all sacrifice.
He did say, “Destroy this temple.” That’s the place where sacrifices are made.
But then he said, “And I’ll rebuild it”— a temple, that is, where sacrifices are made.
“Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Eph. 5:2).”
He journeyed to Jerusalem on purpose; he presented his body a sacrifice to God; he didn’t sacrifice to us, but he did sacrifice for us.
So, some say, “See? He died, so I don’t have to die; he sacrificed, so I don’t have to sacrifice; he was punished (a penal substitution), so I don’t have to be punished; he was crucified, so I don’t have to be crucified.”
And yet, he repeatedly said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
Some object to the idea saying, “His yoke is ‘easy.’ So, if life’s not easy, I obviously need a vacation, a massage, and a manicure but NOT a cross.”
Well, a cross does look an awful lot like a yoke . . . .
“Present your bodies a sacrifice.” It appears that Paul actually meant that. And that is surprising, if Romans means what so many have said that it means.
If you grew up in American “Evangelical” circles and learned the “Romans Road” brochure, you probably learned that: #1 God is “just,” and that means that he has to punish sin. #2 Jesus was punished, so you don’t have to be punished. #3 You don’t have to be punished, if you just accept that he was punished for you, but if you don’t, then you will be punished forever without end, for you must pay, but can’t pay, that’s why it’s forever without end—eternal non-satisfaction.
But, if Jesus was sacrificed so that you would NOT be sacrificed, then the very last thing that Paul would write at this point of his letter would be, “Therefore present your bodies a sacrifice.”
If Jesus was sacrificed so that I don’t have to sacrifice, wouldn’t Paul write, “Therefore, congratulations! You made the right choice, Peter! You’re first and not last! So, of course, you deserve a vacation, a massage, and a manicure; of course, you deserve more stuff than 99% of the world; Of course, you should demand your rights and be easily offended when ridiculed, rejected, and kicked out of the synagogues (what they called churches in Jesus’ day)!”
That’s actually what I want Paul to say. And actually, that’s what the Church has often said.
But Paul actually wrote, “Present your bodies a sacrifice… it’s only logical. Indeed, do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and ‘teleios:’ accomplished (Romans 12:1-2).”
In the age to come (which always is), the “plan for the fulness of time” is accomplished, and all things are “united—brought together under one head—in Christ (Eph. 1:10).”
It’s as if Adam was blown apart into 10 Billion pieces when he took the fruit from the tree in the garden. And it’s as if Adam is put back together when he returns the life to the tree in the New Jerusalem. And that decision is God’s decision given to us by the “Eschatos Adam,” the “head” of the body, as he lifts his head and cries “it is accomplished” and delivers up his Spirit.
The sacrificial system was never about “paying for sin,” but it was always about returning blood to the throne in the heart of the temple, just as every member of your body constantly returns blood to your heart in the middle of your chest; “the life is in the blood.”
It’s not that some are consigned to disobedience and others to receive mercy; but that all are consigned to disobedience so that all could receive mercy, so that all would choose to bleed mercy, with Christ, and in Christ, and so become the Body of Christ. And so, until you present yourself a sacrifice, you have no part in Christ. And yet, Christ is imprisoned in you: Jesus in “me-sus,” until Jesus rises from “me-sus,” your ego. And that’s why Paul is preaching the Word: “Present your bodies a sacrifice.”
That sounds like bad news, but Paul thinks it’s the best news.
Sacrifice is not payment, but it is a door—a door in your mind—and, once you pass through that door, you will know sacrifice by another name.
“In this is love… that he loved us and sent his son—his life, his psyche, his heart—as an atoning sacrifice. (1 John 4:10)”
Love is sacrifice, and true sacrifice is Love; it is willing to will what another will wills.
I have never sacrificed as much for anyone in this world as I have for one particular woman. I have literally given her everything I own. My psyche has literally become our psyche. When she’s in pain, I suffer. On May 28th, 1983, I was literally stripped naked, and my body was offered to her as hers was offered to me . . . and I liked it, a lot! I find it to be an “easy yoke.”
Jesus says to me, “Peter, I made you male and female as a sign, teaching you of sacrificial communion in a covenant of love. Peter, what if you could feel the joy you’ve felt in sacrificing for Susan when sacrificing for me? And then, what if you learned that I was in everyone you would ever meet?”
Sacrifice is Love and Love is Life. Life is not “the survival of the fittest;” Life is “the sacrifice of the fittest.” It’s one cell sacrificing autonomy to another cell; it’s one member bleeding into another member; Life is sacrificial communion; it’s the judgment of God: Jesus.
Sacrifice is Life and freedom and power. A man carrying a cross is free of his past and his future, and must live now—where eternity touches time. A man carrying a cross has surrendered all power, and yet it was a man carrying a cross that changed, and will utterly transform, our world.
Sacrifice is power to enjoy the communion that is our Father’s Banquet.
What is it that keeps us from enjoying the Party . . . or any party, for that matter?
Well, worried about ourselves, we can’t surrender our egos.
Desperate to save ourselves, we can’t be saved.
And that’s why he came, to carry the cross with you.
Sacrifice is Love, and Love is Life, and Life is freedom, and freedom is power: power to party.
“Therefore, present your bodies a sacrifice—living, holy, and pleasing to God.”
When one person sacrifices in a world that doesn’t sacrifice, it looks like a man nailed to a tree.
When two people sacrifice in a world that doesn’t sacrifice, it looks like a good marriage.
When all people sacrifice, and none refuse to sacrifice, we’re home.