Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God’this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1–2)
You don’t start an independent thought with the word therefore, unless you enjoy thoroughly confusing your friends. In that case, go for it. Let us know how it works out.
Therefore is used to indicate a continuation, even culmination, of the previous train of thought. When Paul starts this sentence with therefore, we understand it is connected to what came before. In fact, scholars say it is connected to everything that came before in this letter. This chapter is seen as a hinge point for the entire book, as Paul has been hammering away at the groundbreaking nature of God’s extravagant grace. We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and are justified freely according to his grace (see Romans 3:23–24). “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). The earned wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through the grace of Jesus Christ (see Romans 6:23). And now, he brings it to the point of response. Therefore, in view of this mercy, here is how you should respond: offer your bodies as living sacrifices (see Romans 12:1).
It is strange imagery. Vivid and graphic to the ears of the original audience, he chooses an image that was prominent in both Jewish and pagan forms of worship. The ritual of sacrifice was an agent of keeping or creating peaceful relationship with the deity one worshipped.
But this sacrifice is not an act that makes things right between us and God; Jesus has finished that work, once and for all. It is not a form of paying God back; grace is free and cannot be earned. This sacrifice is simply the only possible response to the breathtaking scope of his mercy—all-out surrender. Surrender so complete and all-encompassing that the only way to depict it is by using the language of death. The way deeper is down. And new life in Jesus only comes on the other side of death to our old selves. To move deeper is to embrace the way of surrender. In view of God’s mercy, it is our only possible response.
Jesus, you are the once-and-for-all sacrifice. And we surrender our lives to you. Every part of who we are, what we own, what we love—everything about us belongs to you. As we contemplate the depth of your grace, we are in awe. In view of your mercy, we offer ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to you. In Jesus’ name, amen.
How does this imagery of sacrifice strike you? What response does it stir up in you?
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