Second Reading: Romans 12:1-2

Faith As Self Surrender

What bad habit or vice do you find difficult to give up? Why is it difficult to rid yourself of this nuisance?

Popular Translation

1 Brother and sisters, I encourage all of you to give yourselves to God because he is so merciful. You are a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. This is the only way to serve God that makes sense.

2 Don’t be like other people. Instead, change the way you think. Figure out what God wants. Look for the good things that please God.

Literal Translation

1 I encourage you then, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies (as) a living sacrifice holy and pleasing to God, your reasonable service. 2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed in the renewal of the mind (for) you to discern what the will of God is, the good and the pleasing and the complete.

12:1 “present your bodies (as) a living sacrifice” Semites equated “body” with the “self.”

God works in strange ways. He shows mercy when we expect his wrath. He gives humanity goodness in the face of evil. He transforms evil into a greater good. Death becomes life. The sinner becomes the saved.

If that is true, what is next for the believer? After Paul recognized that the seemingly incredulous nature of God’s mercy at the end of Romans 11 (see last week’s study), he turned to the practical implications of his thought. Since God was merciful, Paul reasoned, shouldn’t followers respond the way their Savior responded? While Paul did not specifically state such, we can reasonably assume Paul saw self-giving as a form of worship that joined the faithful to their Lord’s self-giving on the cross. Joining one’s self to Christ on the cross made living a holy and pleasing sacrifice to God. In the light of God’s mercy in Christ, this was the only reasonable way to serve God.

Next, Paul explained how to offer such a living sacrifice: seek God’s will. His will was like the sacrifice of Christ that the believer joined: good, pleasing, and complete. But, wasn’t seeking God’s will difficult? Couldn’t the believer be fooled by self-delusion, evil, or weakness? Here, Paul provided the key. In order to seek God’s true will, the believer must allow himself to be transformed by God. To do so, the believer must surrender himself (make himself a living sacrifice) to God. For the Christian, the first step in living an ethical life was a leap of faith itself. The follower no longer belonged to himself. He gave himself to God and trusted God would lead the way.

Like the old analogy about the Christian lifestyle as a tandem bicycle ride, the believer was to allow Christ to drive. In this way, the follower sacrificed pride and self-determination for the will of God. No matter how fast, bumpy, or dangerous the ride might be, the believer was only to trust and peddle.

Yes, God’s ways are strange and unexpected. When he offers us undeserved mercy though Christ, we are act like our Savior. We are to place our daily existence in the hands of God. In this way, we can become a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to our maker. In this way, we can seek his will.

How do you offer your day to God? How do you make seeking his will day-by-day process? How do you include you bad habits or vices in your prayer of daily offering?