Believing the right thing–yeah, you get some points for that. But knowing the answers only gets you so far. Theology isn’t just for dusty books and ivory towers. It’s more than late night wrangling over cold coffee and those conversations where you sharpen your debate skills as much as your knowledge of the word.
Theology–what we believe about God–is only as good as what we do about God. If we believe Jesus is Lord, that belief should impact our character.
Paul knew this.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship (Romans 12:1)
Therefore–in light of everything Paul has said in the first eleven chapters of Romans–because of God’s mercy, we are called to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God. Romans is an intensely theological book, yet Paul doesn’t close without reminding the Romans of what that theology is supposed to look like: Loving your enemies. Respecting authority. Living in harmony with others. Pursuing peace. In the closing chapters of Romans, Paul reminds us that the gospel is not just something we speak but something we live.
Living the gospel means presenting ourselves before the Lord as a living sacrifice. Presenting our bodies is a way of saying that we give God our full self. No compartments; no masks; nothing withheld–just the gift of our total surrender to the Lord who gave himself for us. This is our worship–our theology lived out in the mess and the complexity of daily life. That’s where we wrestle with the hard questions of what truth looks like for me, right now, in this situation, with these people, in this room. It’s loving our enemies when we can write their names beneath the verse. Choosing peace when everything in us desires to fight for what is ours. Willingly laying aside our rights to seek harmony in the body. That’s where it gets real. And that’s where we worship.
And why–why do we choose this path of sacrifice and surrender? Because of God’s mercy. God has shown us mercy. Instead of judgment, he gave us Jesus. Instead of demanding our blood he spilled His. We deserved justice. God gave us mercy, In thanksgiving we offer ourselves to him.
Mercy undergirds our worship. Our position before the Father should be one of grateful adoration. That gratitude spills over into how we live. We show others mercy because God has shown us mercy. We love our enemies because while we were still God’s enemies God loved us. We are patient with the weak because God has shown patience with our weakness. Out of his great mercy God sacrificed his own son, and now we offer ourselves as living sacrifices before him. We put our theology into practice, and it gets attention.
When they ask why, you know the answer. Because God has shown me mercy. How could I give him any less than everything?
That’s the difference mercy makes.