Is My Sacrifice Living?
If you grew up in the church like me, there may have been a season of your life where you felt overwhelmed by pleas for sacrifice. I felt the need to sacrifice the length of my hair, the shine of my car, the volume of my music, the frivolity of my schedule, and money. Don’t get me wrong, there are things that need death in the life of a disciple, but so much of what I heard at times seemed like nonsense. I found myself managing a checklist of social pariah that needed extermination from my thoughts as well as my actions. I was missing how to live from always looking for what needed to die.
The plea we hear from the apostle Paul in Romans 12 is for a different kind of sacrifice. Paul’s plea for personal sacrifice stems from the death of Jesus, not our own death. What does it mean for us to be identified with the death of Jesus so that we might become living sacrifices? Living sacrifices are both worshipful and merciful, the apostle says (Romans 12:1-8). If I spend all of my time only managing a moral checklist of bad behavior, I take my eyes off of the spiritual gift I have received to exercise within the body of Christ. Submission without service is only half of the exercise. In fact, by serving through submission we learn to truly live.
The writer to the Hebrews says that even our lips, that tender part of our bodies that is both alive and small, can render to God a sacrifice of praise. As we proclaim the worth of Christ in our gatherings or in our cars, we present living sacrifices to the King. But it doesn’t end there, of course. Hebrews 13:15 reminds us that to “do good and share with those in need” is also the way His body functions in this world to present “the sacrifices that please God.”
In all of this I am reminded that the old sacrificial system pointed to the one true sacrifice who suffered and died in substitution for our lives. We live from His death. In the same way, we sacrifice our lives in service and worship—service which is worship, Paul would say. Like any good exercise, you may feel the pain of exertion, but your life is better for it. You will feel more alive, and so will the body of Christ. Is your sacrifice living?