Maybe you’re having trouble with forgiveness because you’ve been badly burned by someone. Someone has abused you, offended you, cheated on you, or wronged you in some way. Maybe there’s a huge chasm between you and someone you love (or want to love). You understand intellectually that you ought to forgive, but the idea is so painful because of what this person has done to you. Your spirit is willing but your flesh is weak. You may have thought at some point while reading this chapter, That’s easy for you to say. You don’t know what I’ve been through.
You’re right; I probably don’t know what you’ve been through. But that emotion you’re feeling right now, that weight, that discomfort you feel when you ponder the gravity of forgiving such huge wrongs against you, is a taste of the scandal of grace.
I’m not sure I can even express this strongly enough: grace is scandalous. It’s unbelievable. It’s weird. It’s nonsensical. It disturbs us and confuses us. It burns.
But it heals.
Jared C. Wilson, Your Jesus is Too Safe, Chapter 3: Jesus the Forgiver
I cannot even explain how geeked out I am over this!
The historic Apollo 11 mission launched on this day forty years ago. You can follow the mission in real time (minus exactly forty years). They are orbiting the earth right now. Trans-lunar injection in about 89 minutes.
I’ve got the audio on so I can listen to the back and forth between Mission Control and the crew.
Let’s be frank: if you find the message of Jesus easy to digest, you’d better check the label on the box. You may be consuming a diluted version of Christianity. The message of Jesus – that he himself is life and you can’t get it anywhere else, least of all in yourself – is the hardest message we could ever hear, because it goes completely against our perceptions and conceptions, our prejudices and our opinions. It goes radically against the bent of our souls.
– Jared Wilson, Your Jesus is Too Safe, Chapter 1.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
– Psalm 118:24
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 spiritual worship.
– Romans 12:1 (ESV)
Romans 12:1 follows Romans chapters 1 through 11, in which Paul has systematically expounded on God’s great mercies toward us. Paul’s audience, which included converted Roman pagans, no doubt caught his stunning reversal of the concept of sacrifice when compared to the millennia-long practice of sacrifice that they knew well.
For a pagan (and, sadly, for many of us that call ourselves Christians), sacrifice is something we do to gain the favor of the gods. Love and mercy are foreign concepts to normal modes of sacrifice. Sacrifice to a pagan is a transaction, a trade. And sacrifice usually involves blood and death.
But by the mercies of God, this is not the sacrifice that we are called to. Rather than spill blood in order to satiate and gain favor from the gods, we have had the Lord’s favor bestowed on us through his grace alone. Dwell on his mercy, gain a small understanding of his overwhelming love, and we find ourselves bowed before him in worship, awed by his great gifts to us.
And it is in this desire to worship, which goes so far beyond (and often has nothing to do with) singing to him, that Paul urges us to the beautiful righting of an upside down pagan vision: not a dead sacrifice caked with blood and flames, but rather a living sacrifice. joyfully and freely given to the Lord who has no need for anything, and who indeed has already given his all to us.
It’s the moment by moment sacrifice of a life fully yielded; a beautiful work of art offered to the master Craftsman who made it.
Holy and acceptable.
Update: here’s eldest son’s take on this verse.