By The Rev. Jeremy Myers
I am dying. I was confronted with this difficult and startling truth on my first Sunday at First Baptist Church of Seymour.
David Hinson, the interim pastor, preached the message that Sunday. I don’t remember all that he said, but he did catch my attention when he announced that every Sunday that I stood in the pulpit and preached to the fine people of FBC, I would die a little, that there would be just a little bit less of me to give each passing week.
How did I respond to such a dark declaration? I quietly, yet audibly, giggled. Even now, it strikes me as somewhat funny that on my first Sunday at the church, attention was drawn to my last Sunday on Earth.
I don’t remember the specific content of a lot of sermons I’ve heard in my life. I don’t remember the specific content of most of the sermons I’ve preached. I will, however, never forget the words Hinson preached that morning, and I am grateful to him for them.
In Romans 12:1, the Apostle Paul writes, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. This is your true and proper worship.”
This verse presents us with a seemingly contradictory idea, that of a “living sacrifice.” Throughout the Bible, a sacrifice indicated the loss of life. It was the killing of a ram, a dove, a lamb or some other animal in order to atone or pay for the sins of another. The sacrifice of the one made way for the life of the other. Sacrifices, by definition, do not live. Sacrifices die.
Perhaps the words of Jesus can provide some context and clarification for us. In Luke 9:23, Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
When we think of sacrifice, we often think of the death Jesus died. Jesus offered his life as a sacrifice in dramatic and memorable fashion when he hung and died on a cruel Roman cross for the sins of the world.
But his sacrifice began long before he died. His sacrifice played out through the very life he lived on Earth. When Jesus left the glory of heaven to come to Earth, that was a sacrifice. When he, the almighty creator, took on the form of and lived with his creation, that was a sacrifice. Every breath Jesus took, every day he lived was an act of sacrifice in order that he might make known and make available the love of God the father.
His life provides the model into which we should seek to mold our own lives. It is sacrifice, not through an immediate death but through a daily process of “dying” through giving our lives for the good of others and the glory of God.
Offering our lives as sacrifices doesn’t necessarily mean dramatically and summarily dying for a cause or purpose. Offering our lives as a sacrifice means giving the energy and/or output of our lives for someone or something other than ourselves. It is putting to the side our own self-interest, our own priorities and preferences, bleeding the moments of our brief existence for the betterment of others, just as Jesus did.
I am, in fact, dying, and so are you. We die a little every day. Every breath we take and every moment that passes moves us just a little bit closer to the end. Life has a 100% mortality rate. None of us gets out alive.
Whether we recognize it or not each day, the actions of our lives are being sacrificed to something. Some days, we offer our sacrifices on the altar to self. On other days, we offer ourselves as sacrifices in service to others.
For those of us who claim to follow Jesus, every day should be offered as a sacrifice to the glory of our God. The key for each of us is to make sure our sacrifices are worth it. We need to make sure we’re living lives worth dying for.