In Eat this Book, Eugene Peterson teaches us to chew on a passage of scripture, digest it, and put it to use in practical ways. Our Christian fathers and mothers called this process Lectio Divina. In this passage from Romans, Paul encourages us to live as apprentices of Jesus every moment of every day so that God can bring out the best of us in the midst of a changing culture.
ROMANS 12: 1-2 (MSG) – OUR WALKING – AROUND LIFE
“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.”
Other versions of Roman 12: 1 encourage us to offer or present our bodies as a “living sacrifice.” The Message version suggests how we can do that. We are told to live our lives (with God’s help) in our world without becoming “well-adjusted” to that world. One commentator says that the word “world” refers to the spirit of the age. How would you describe “the spirit of our age”?
Paul also warns that the culture around us tries to drag Christ-followers down to its level of immaturity. How true for 2017! The self-praise, the lies and “alternative facts,” the demand that we must put ourselves and our country first, the words and actions that declare that people who are not like us must be kept away from us, the lack of compassion for anyone who is different – these are immature ways of thinking. They are also exactly the same things Jesus warned against when he walked this earth.
Paul proclaims in Corinthians and Colossians as well as in this chapter that rather than conforming (becoming comfortable with and even joining in) the culture around us, we are to be transformed. We are to renew our minds by surrounding ourselves with the teachings of scripture, the Spirit of Jesus, and the prayers and fellowship of believers so that our minds don’t have room for false teachings. However, I think Paul also means that we are supposed to use our minds to seek out and learn the truth. Slick diversions, punches and counter punches, and overwhelming chatter can easily lead us astray. Or just as frightening, we can be so overwhelmed that we are too battered to respond or resist.
We are also to “put off the old self with its practices and [clothe ourselves] with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.” This means we cannot accommodate or excuse lies or abusive behavior or actions that wound the most vulnerable among us.
The values and principles we learn in the Scriptures and from Jesus and then his disciples are not just good ideas. They must be part of our decision-making and actions; the world is waiting for us to speak up!
♥ In commenting on this verse, Richard Foster says that the problem with a “living” sacrifice is that it always wants to get off the altar. The Spiritual Formation Bible suggests this soul-training exercise: “On a scale of 1 to 10 (“easy” to “hard”), rank the difficulty you think you would have in giving your entire being – thoughts, words, and actions – to God. As you go about your life this week, make effort to dedicate everything you think, say, or do to God. How often did you want to get off the altar?”
♥ Read Scripture, mull over and/or talk about with friends the things that Jesus said (such as the beatitudes) that are counter to what we have been hearing for the last few weeks. Or think about Jesus’ actions (such as welcoming the children or feeding the thousands) or his parables (such as the Good Samaritan). How does his thinking and behavior match up with the words and actions we have been astounded by in the past week?
♥ If you are uncomfortable with the political atmosphere, what do you want to say or do about it? What do you think the Church should be doing or saying?
MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT
“Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, ‘Pray for me that I not loosen my grip on the hands of Jesus under the guise of ministering to the poor.’ That is our first task: to grip the hands of Jesus with such tenacity that we are obliged to follow his lead, to seek first his kingdom . . . . Begin now to obey him in every way you can” (Richard Foster in Freedom of Simplicity).