“I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Rom 12:1)”
One time while on mission outreach in Kotido, we went to preach to one of the village churches on a Sunday. We were surprised to find no building, no shelter – the church would simply congregate under a tree. An old jerrycan whose top had been sliced off was placed near the tree; As people gathered, I noticed each came bowed before an old jerrycan; this surprised me, and soon I would inquire what this ritual was all about. Then I was informed that the jerrycan was the offertory bag/basket, and it represented the altar. In the absence of a building with clearly designated spaces, special seats and a table, the offertory basket was enough to set apart the ‘altar’ space. That shows the importance and centrality of sacrifice in our worship.
Sacrifice is a concept that is well understood among many peoples – whether sacrificing to various gods or to the Almighty Sovereign God, it is the very heart of worship. In one of his books, Prof Edison Kalengyo surveys Sacrifice in the Letter to the Hebrews, where the ultimate is presented. But first let us take note of the counterfeit: in Satanic worship, if chicken and goats are good offerings, then bulls are even better ‘the bigger the sacrifice, the better gods are appeased, invoking greater miracles; when an even bigger prayer must be made, it could call for a living sacrifice ‘a human being! Children’s blood may be shed at that level; but later a more worthy and important person must be sacrificed – one close to your heart like a mother or a brother! I hear some people do these things to get and maintain earthly wealth and power.
In authentic worship, sacrifice is required to make God happy and bring life to the people. In Hebrews, the epitome of sacrifice is presented the ultimate living sacrifice: ‘But when Christ came as high priest… he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption” (Heb 9:11-12). Now that all that could be achieved by sacrifice has been achieved by Jesus Christ, what remains for us?
‘Present your bodies as a living sacrifice’. God continues to demand our hearts and lives, living to honour Him and walk according to His leading. This is the most we can do to appreciate the eternal redemption, but this worshipful lifestyle is also the reason God created us. Joyfully bring your gifts to God; and support all development agenda – there are many projects at hand even now. But most importantly, the Lord needs your life, not just your gifts; he requires full surrender to Him, and He will direct your path. In this season of Lent, may God lead you to recapture the importance and centrality of sacrifice in our lives before God; and so to worship in truth and in spirit.