Boxes are nice and square. They keep things in and keep things out. Today’s passages have been challenging for me. I am a box person. I love boxes. I am happy within their four walls. They offer check lists and clear rules to follow. Do this, get that. A+B=C. Nice and simple. Sometimes I think I would have faired better with the Israelites who were given very specific rules and regulations on how to worship, serve and follow God. But because it was impossible to please God due to our human sin nature, God made another way. There is only one thing inside the box, now, Jesus. Everything else is outside the box! In other words, the only requirement to be a true believer and follower of Jesus is faith in him, but how we worship, how we live and move and breathe is all outside of the box without checklists and mathematical equations.
As a teenager in youth group, we studied a passage in Romans that changed my life. It has stuck with me and recently has been like a blinking light in my bible. No matter how many bibles I own, this one is always highlighted. Romans 12: 1 says.
“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.“
The specific practices for sacrifices that were pleasing to God back in the Leviticus are no longer what please him now. Because Jesus came to fulfill the law, it’s not null and void, just unnecessary in the same way it previously was. Sacrifices that are pleasing to God now come from the entire body, heart, mind and soul. The sacrifices offered in the old testament were dead, we are alive and that means our sacrifice is daily, moment by moment.
Is it ok to play it safe on the inside of the box, close to Jesus, checking off the boxes?
“In the old system, the animals are killed and the bodies disposed of outside the camp. The blood is then brought inside to the altar as a sacrifice for sin. It’s the same with Jesus. He was crucified outside the city gates—that is where he poured out the sacrificial blood that was brought to God’s altar to cleanse his people.” (MSG)
Personally, I’ve been convicted that I’ve been playing things too safe and it’s time to step outside the box and do the hard work of faith. I could stay inside and love those around me in my family and inner circle. I could send a donation online to a great organization feeding the poor and grant forgiveness over and over to my children; all great and sometimes difficult things but safe nonetheless. Or, I could roll up my sleeves and step outside the box in the same way Jesus did and love the unlovely, serve those who won’t help themselves, give grace to those who don’t deserve it, give generously and joyfully and on and on.
“So let’s go outside, where Jesus is, where the action is—not trying to be privileged insiders, but taking our share in the abuse of Jesus. This “insider world” is not our home. We have our eyes peeled for the City about to come. Let’s take our place outside with Jesus, no longer pouring out the sacrificial blood of animals but pouring out sacrificial praises from our lips to God in Jesus’ name.” (MSG)
Sacrificial love is messy and hard and challenging and rewarding and sweet and pleasing to the Lord.
Oh, Lord, may we live to please you. Not just with our words but with our whole mind, body and spirit. Help us to not neglect to do good and share what we have with others. Thank you for being our helper and for your promise to never leave us alone! Amen.