Reflection: Romans 12:1 – 2.
Each year, I pick a verse or two, sometimes a chapter, to meditate and to follow through with obedience. My Scriptural focus for 2014 is Romans 12. Martin Luther’s view of Romans, Paul’s magnum opus, is that “the sum and substance of this Letter is to pull down, to pluck up, and to destroy all wisdom and righteousness of the flesh… for God does not want to save us by our own but by an extraneous righteousness which does not originate in ourselves but comes from heaven.” The first eleven chapters define the theological necessity for and the foundations of the gospel, forming the basis for the rest of the Letter, where Paul explicates how believers should then practically live.
For all intents and purposes, sacrifices in the Testamental periods are holy and are laid lifeless at the altar. But to have living sacrifices is Paul’s play on the imagery of the nature of sacrifice, as he appeals to the Roman believers that positionally they ought to be on the altar as an offering to God. It makes sense when we understand that it is Christ that is living in us (Gal 2:20) and that the body is the temple of His Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19), hence our body becomes a living and holy sacrifice. Its implications are phenomenal! It is not an understatement to imply that most of us do struggle at some point to fully surrender our life for someone else to run it. Even if that someone be God! To intentionally abandon ourselves to an invisible Being is so alien to us, due principally to our fallen conditioning, but we know Paul is correct!
An analogy may help here. ‘Object constancy’ is a critical part of childhood formation that we all go through, but cannot quite recollect. Observe a child at play alone or with others, and you will notice that from time-to-time, he will turn around to look for his mother or caregiver. She is his object constancy – his reference point for secure assurance or reassurance that all is well, and that he can carry on playing. If his object constancy is not within eyeshot or earshot, he will vainly look around or even get up to look for her, or burst into tears. A child who constantly cannot identify his reference point is likely to grow up feeling insecure. As an adult, the same principle applies. The ‘new birth’ refocuses us on God, our new ‘object constancy.’ If we have not seen the process modeled before us or did not learn to maturely develop it, that crucial ‘reference point’ becomes tentative and tenuous in our life. Consequently, the injunction is for us to intentionally keep fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:2).
Furthermore, this living and holy sacrificing is unenforceable by God, as the verse clearly states that the decision remains with us to present our bodies to Him (v.1), not once, but repeatedly. Paul addresses the issue of ‘presenting’ three times in Romans 6 (vv. 13, 16, 19), where the applied sense is yielding one’s eyes, ears, tongues, arms, etc – in fact, one’s whole being. So, Paul earnestly appeals to the believers that since God is so merciful, those who worship Him are to present themselves entirely as consecrated instruments that please Him, so that He is honored and praised in everything they do; so that others may see God in us. (Part 2 will follow.)