Romans 12 marks a shift in Paul's writing in the letter to the church in Rome. Previously Paul focused on what might be considered theological points. Now the focus is on how we live into those theological points. It is easy to live in the land of theory, or what I call the land of suppose to. The real challenge is when we begin to apply what we have theorized, and put it to work.
Paul's basic plea here rests in the first two verses. Essentially, the call is to live differently. To offer ourselves as a living sacrifice means that we put the concerns of God ahead of our own self importance. Something which seems to have troubled the church in Rome, and I know troubles the church in America. Oswald Chambers in his classic work, My Utmost For His Highest, says this, "Beware of refusing to go to the funeral of your own independence." Ouch, those are some tough words, but they are the same words Paul is challenging us with.
The rest of the chapter outlines how one is to go about living differently. First is to recognize how God has made you and do that. Not worrying about how God made someone else and playing the comparison game. No, take stock of how God has made you and live into the creation God has made you to be. The concluding verses bring back the practical ways we can live differently. All of the calls of how to live in verses 9-21 are offered over and against the way the world around us seems to function. However, it is not possible to live differently if we are not willing to offer ourselves before God. We cannot love well, we cannot be hope-filled and joyful, we cannot practice hospitality, we will have difficulty blessing others, we will be in the revenge business, all of it if we do not first offer ourselves to God as a living sacrifice.
I long to be important and have my existence matter. I trust I am not alone in this longing. Still, I have to daily, sometimes minute by minute, attend the funeral of my own self-importance. More simply put, it is not about me.