I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Sacrificial living and non-conformist outlook. Both are counter-cultural, costly, demanding, and do not necessarily come easily or naturally to us.
The word “sacrifice” can all too readily be used when, in fact, at best we are referring to “inconvenience” rather than any significant costly gift. Being challenged to present our bodies as “a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” underlines the fact that in every decision and choice we make we are willing to place our commitment to Christ and neighbour before our own comfort or desire. Inevitably we may want to place limits on our generosity and to negotiate deals that leave us with some measure of comfort but those who respond to the call to sacrificial living must be ready – inspired and energised by the One who gave his all – to forget limits and conditions. In the words of Horatius Bonar: Fill thou my life, O Lord my God, in every part with praise, that my whole being may proclaim thy being and thy ways. Praise in the common things of life, its goings out and in; praise in each duty and each deed, however small and mean. (Horatius Bonar, 1808-1889)
Non-conformity – being wise and strong enough to risk standing out from the crowd and against the tide as and when we discern that it is right to do so. We risk making ourselves unpopular. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one example of faithful non-conformity – standing up against the sinister forces of Nazism (and paying the ultimate price for doing so). In his book, Costly Discipleship, he writes, “Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate … Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a [person] will gladly go and sell all that [they have].”
Fill every part of me with praise; let all my being speak of thee and of thy love, O Lord, poor though I be and weak.
So shall no part of day or night from sacredness be free; but all my life, in every step, be fellowship with thee.
The Rev’d Geoffrey Clarke, Minister, The Crossing (Methodist & United Reformed Church), Worksop & Wales Kiveton Methodist Church.