I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your rational service (Rm. 12:1).
Seemingly, we are instructed from our births that the only way by which we will find true fulfillment in our lives is by becoming someone who is great and laudable—someone who is esteem-able. Implanted in our young minds are the society’s virtues of self-esteem and self-aggrandizement, wherein countless sources from parents to teachers, preachers to presidents, cheer us on to be anything that we desire to be, as long as we put our minds and our energies into it. We are inspired to dream dreams, to reach for the pinnacles of human existence, and to loathe whatever evil thoughts might step in our way that tell us, “You’re not good enough, you’re not smart enough, and dag-gone-it, people don’t like you.”
We are taught to become our own cheerleaders and our own advocates to society, and the only thing that holds us back from making our dreams realities is our own lack of positive thinking. And granting the short span of our lives and our preoccupation with them, our dreams nearly all consist of becoming well-to-do, staying healthy, and securing our future by investments so that we will not have the spend the entirety of our days toiling under the sun.
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mt. 16:24). The call of Jesus Christ for any who would follow after him to “take up his cross” is a radical command. For Christ is not, as many who interpret the passage declare, speaking of one’s petty trifles, such as bad hair days, broken cars, etc., as one’s crosses, but that those who would follow after him must continually be killing themselves and their natural passions, by a bloody crucifixion nonetheless. It is an act of priestly service declaring to God and to the world the God whom we serve. The apostle Paul says in Romans 12:2 that this killing of ourselves, this offering up our “bodies as a living sacrifice” upon the altar of the Holy Spirit, is not merely something that is suggested of those who are radical followers of Christ and who are mentally unbalanced according to the world, but it is the “reasonable service” of those who are in him. Crucifying one’s self for the sake of following Christ is reasonable. Its reasonableness rests not in the act of crucifying one’s body, but it rests in what God through Jesus Christ has done. For, as the apostle puts it, the greatness of the “mercies of God” are such that all ambitions and pursuits in this age are brought to nothing in the light of God’s work. For if God did not spare the life of his only Son but gave him up for us all, why then would we not give up all things in this age to follow hard after him by putting to death the deeds of our bodies? (cf. Rm. 8:13). Indeed, it would be unreasonable for us to do otherwise. Therefore, if we who claim to be in Christ love and pursue the things of the world, viz. the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and pride in possessions (1Jn. 2:15, 16), we prove ourselves, in the least, to be unreasonable, and at the most, that the love of the Father is not in us in spite of our claims. Just a thought.
Several members of my church, including some dear friends, are leaving today to go to Honduras to help the Church there. They are leaving today–the day after Christmas, while many are going shopping, sitting around their homes drinking hot chocolate, or simply relishing a couple days off of work. They go sacrificing vacation time or wages for this upcoming week, possibly jeopardizing their fiscal stability and comfort. They go also after months of foregoing various luxuries in order to raise the money needed to fund the trip. They do this–what many in the world and in the church might consider a careless use of money and a waste of time, because they desire to glorify Jesus Christ by regarding others in the world as better than themselves.
Some in the Church grumble in the background, “Why do we continue to send our people and our money to places in the world where the Gospel has already been preached?” Others have grumbled about the nature of some of the past trips to Honduras, namely those that were done for the purpose of building dwellings and structures for the Church in Honduras rather than being a concerted effort to preach the Gospel to those who had not heard.