When reading Romans 12, the emphasis is often on the demand to ‘offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.’
This sounds very noble and something to which we can strive, but to me, it also feels as if the demand is a little bit too high as if there is no way in which I can live in a way that is ‘holy and pleasing to God.’
I thought I would rather write about some of the other parts of the text, and avoid this part. Maybe I would write about the “one body”, something which CABSA talks about often and even include in our Guiding Principles, or maybe I could even use one of the other readings of this week.
And then I read the translation of “The Message”. And, as so often happened before, I was granted a new perspective on a text that I had read many times before.
12 1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.
First of all, we are not asked to do this alone, the author emphasises that we should do this with God helping us!
And then, the next part is so ordinary! We are not asked to do extraordinary things, to do miracles. We are just asked to live our ordinary life, but to live this in a special way.
What special way is this?
I was recently reminded of the term “Coram Deo”. These Latin words mean something that takes place in the presence of, or before the face of, God. To live Coram Deo means to live one’s life in the presence of God, under the authority of God and to the glory of God.
I think this is what the author is asking from us. When we “fix our attention on God” and realise that every ordinary thing we do is done in God’s presence, then we will “change from the inside out“.
But there is a warning in the middle of this passage. The author warns us: “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.”
Maybe this is what pulls us away from living in the presence of God; we become too “well-adjusted” to our culture!
We accept or do not notice the ‘isms’ and phobias in our society; the classism, the sexism, the racism, the homophobia and the xenophobia, the things that separate us from each other and from God.
So, this week, this will be my prayer: to live “Coram Deo”, to be aware of living before God in my “sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life.”
To Think about: Is there somewhere in your ordinary life where you have become too “well-adjusted to the culture” around you? Where do you need to become more aware of living Coram Deo?