Apr 23

How to be a living sacrifice.

Animals and sacrifices

I spent the first eleven years of my life in New York City, in the Bronx. I went to high school in its northern suburbs. There were very few animals in my childhood. There is an old picture in an album of me feeding a lamb with a baby bottle at the Catskill Game Farm. I think it was the first time I saw one at about eight years old.

Many of my students grew up on farms in various countries around the world. They have written papers about the Jewish sacrificial system with far more sympathy than I could. They talk about their animals with great affection and talk about their value and the various peculiarities of their behavior. They have a far better understanding of giving up an animal as an act of worship.

A Living Sacrifice

Paul’s letter to the Romans is the classic exposition of Christian salvation that has inspired pastors and leaders throughout Church History.

In the first verse of chapter twelve, Paul began the application of his teaching in the earlier chapters. He wanted his readers to become living sacrifices. In a world rich in sacrifice obligations and imagery, he wanted Christians to become the sacrifice. The rest of the chapter gives the characteristics of this living sacrifice.

We are not to look to the world as our standard but to be renewed in our minds so we can find the will of God in our lives. (Romans 12:1-2)

A Proper Opinion of Ourselves

First, we need to have a proper opinion of ourselves. The world usually leads us to have a higher self-focused notion of our importance. Christians should first see themselves as members of the Body of Christ using our spiritual gifts in service of our fellow Christians. (Romans 12:3-8)

In my recent reading in the Old Testament, I was again struck by a glaring example of self-importance. When Jacob adopted the two sons of Joseph and gave them equal status to their uncles, he blessed the younger son, Ephraim, and gave him a place over the older, Manasseh. The self-importance of the tribal leaders of Ephraim is displayed when they want a larger inheritance from Joshua when the Promised Land was divided. Later they criticized Gideon for not giving them a more important role in the defeat of the Midianites. Finally they provoke a civil war when they threaten Jephthah after his defeat of the Ammonites. (Genesis 48; Joshua 17:14-18; Judges 8:1-3; 12:1-6)

In contrast, our lives of service are to be marked by love, patience, prayer and generosity. (Romans 12:9-13)

Finally, as we live in the world, we are not to be antagonistic toward those who persecute us. Also, we are to be empathetic toward those who suffer and those who are happy. We should not shun one or be envious of the other. The final verse of the chapter sums up our role as sacrificial servants. We are not overcome by the evil around us but we overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:14-21)

What are the next steps for you to be a better living sacrifice?

What areas are the most difficult for you?

This post first appeared on Bob Krupp’s blog

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