Paul’s letters urge us to take on the life of Jesus. He writes that in many different ways and in as many different contexts, but none as bold as 12:1-2. Eugene Peterson’s Message is not a literal translation and is sometimes criticized for taking too many liberties. His translation of these verses gives a great modern image:
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
The Revised Standard Version has, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice. That is the phrase I always think of. A sacrifice presented to God in the Temple belonged to God alone. The priests carefully prepared the portions for burning; the rest could be eaten by the one offering the sacrifice or by the priests. Unlike other religions of the day, the excess meat was not for sale, it still belonged to God. Jews had an understanding of what it meant to eat God’s property.
God chose Moses as a living sacrifice in a unique way, he was given to Pharaoh’s household to be raised. After forty years being an Egyptian prince, God sent him to a distant land to become a Hebrew again, for forty years. Only then did he call Moses to his true gift. Do not overlook the detail that God spent 80 years preparing Moses to lead the Chosen People to the Promised Land.
If I have to wait many years to be ready for the important job God has set aside for me, what do I do in the meantime? Present myself as a living sacrifice. All too often we are prone to say, I can’t do that, or I wish I could do what you do. We only have the right to say, I can’t do that, once we have given it a serious try. Remember dreaming of being this that or the other as a child? As adults we must try our hand at this that and the other until we find that niche that seems right.
There is only one Moses. Only one Paul. I cannot fill those shoes. God has something less grand for me. My name will not be immortalized in the Bible, but God expects me to do my part. Paul wrote of the parts of the human body. We can now put the image on an even smaller scale. A single human cell has several small “factories” generating products necessary for the life of the whole body. One converts our food to the energy necessary to keep us warm and happy. But there is also the part of the cell that cleans up after the other parts. It is no less important in God’s eyes.
Here I am, what can I do in this time, in this place for God’s glory?
Be righteous and do good.