Sunday, August 24, 2014

Self Sacrifice

This week Jesus talks about the cross. Peter, who was the hero the last few weeks, gets to be the goat this week. He says No. No way should Jesus have to die on a cross. In a way he is right. Jesus does not deserve it. Yet Jesus responds very harshly. He calls Peter Satan. Then he says something almost the opposite of what he said last week. Last week he said, "Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my Father in heaven." This week He says, "You are thinking not as God does but as human beings do." 

So Peter has moved from a reliable teacher of God's word to a mere human who is capable of making some very serious errors. The church has always dealt with this. She is protected from teaching error, especially error about the central question of, "Who is Jesus?" Yet she has also had many failed leaders, especially leaders who ran away from the cross and used human wisdom rather than God's thinking. We should follow the pope's teaching on faith and morals but we should not blindly follow everything they say or do. They are still human. 

The second reading is helpful here. St Paul talks about us offering our bodies as living sacrifices very much the way Jesus offered His body. Why? The choice is between being conformed to the pattern of world or being transformed by grace. 

What is the pattern of the world? Making deals. I will give you something if you give me something. What is the goal? At a minimum it is to save your skin. You want to prosper but the first order of business is to survive. The only question is how to accomplish that and what else can I get extra? That is the way humans think.

Jesus thinks different. He does not try and save Himself. He sees death coming and walks right into it. Why? Is He suicidal? No. Suicidal people don't value their life. Jesus values His life. He just recognizes that giving up your life is the ultimate act of love. He sees that is what is needed. Mankind in the ultimate place of debt needs the ultimate act of love to open the door and show him the way. Jesus is determined to provide that for Peter and for all of us no matter what he says.

We have the same challenge as Peter. When Romans 12 challenges us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices we have the same reaction. Certainly not! That cross is just as hard as it has always been. Yet what do we get as a result? That we may be able to know the will of God.  What is good and pleasing and perfect. That is huge. Instead of being stuck in human thinking we get to know the mind of God. Our minds will be transformed and renewed so we can see what will lead us to be truly good and truly happy. 

God wants to do it. All He needs is our permission. That is what offering our bodies in worship amounts to. Do with me what you want without any limits. Yet we do it as worship. Not just to get something better although that will happen. We do it because God deserves everything we have and everything we are and everything we might become and more. 

Jesus talks about us losing our lives for His sake.  Again the benefit to us is mentioned but the primary motivation is the glory of God. The idea that there is nothing better to do with our lives regardless. Yet the fact that we are going to lose our lives anyway makes it a foolish offer to refuse. We give up what we cannot keep to get what we cannot lose. Yet the choice to give it must be made.  

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