A Living Killing.
What exactly is a living sacrifice? How would I know if I am one?
“I appeal to you brothers by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable to the Lord, which is your spiritual service.” (Romans 12:1-2)
The word sacrifice is temple terminology. If you are familiar with the Old Testament, you will immediately recognize the phrase “present a sacrifice.” But this sacrifice is both different and alike to those old covenant sacrifices.
A living sacrifice is different because it does not atone for our sin. This sacrifice we are compelled to give is not to appease God’s wrath, but rather is presented in gratitude for the mercies of God shown to us in Christ. (Romans 1-11)
A living sacrifice is also different because it is, well, living. Old Testament lambs, goats, bulls, and birds were bloody, because they were killed. The remains were then incinerated. One old-time preacher humorously, (and perhaps accurately) said, “the problem with a living sacrifice is that it is always trying to crawl off the altar.”
But living sacrifices are like Old Testament sacrifices too. They are sacrifices. So, something dies. Perhaps a more literal translation of a living sacrifice would be a living killing. A living sacrifice is what we would call an oxymoron-a seeming contradiction. Oxymorons are funny to consider like ‘jumbo shrimp’, ‘deafening silence’ or 'old news.' Oxymorons can be clearly confusing (see what I did there?), but they can also be helpful as a literary device. The apostle juxtaposes contradictory terms: a living killing.
Perhaps a more literal translation of a living sacrifice would be a living killing.
A living killing is when we put to death the right to live our lives the way we want to live them. A living killing is when we put to death the idea that I belong to myself.
And this kind of living sacrifice feels like death.
Never in the history of the world has a culture been so averse to the idea of presenting our bodies as a living killing. But this is what the Christian life is in summary. Living the Christian life is our concluding that we will put to death all our rights to live our lives our way. It’s saying, “God, I trust You and You know how best to lead my life.”
All of us are presenting our bodies as a living killing for something.
Is it our job? Is it our reputation? Is it our money? Perhaps it’s even our ministry?