Christian Principles for Service to Others
From an Orthodox Perspective:
The First Principle
The Apostle Paul presented a clear and descriptive program of salvation to each of us in the following:
“I appeal to you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:1-2).
In this passage, we are being exhorted to give ourselves as an offering to God as a living sacrifice. We are being urged not to follow the so-called “politically correct norms” which are being set as a pattern of life in the age and times in which we are living, rather we are to undergo a total moral and spiritual makeover to improve our selves through the will of God. The use of the word “therefore” by St. Paul at the beginning of this chapter is of great importance. It is the link between the doctrinal, theoretical aspects of salvation through the mercies of God with its application for our day to day life. The word “therefore” is a very important element in Paul’s thinking process, and it should be emphasized whenever ethical implications are ignored.
Today, the Church is being handicapped when we fail to give a practical application to the meaning of the teachings of Jesus Christ. It is for this reason, today that we are witnessing the greatest perversions in every part of our lives, especially among those who call themselves Christians. We find many Christians who will confess the Creed of Faith, then turn around and commit adultery, perverted sex, they will lie, cheat, steal and support the legalization of every unethical and immoral practice. They will gamble, consume illegal drugs, get involved in drunken revelry and even engage in superstitious practices, all the while claiming to be Christians. This is why Paul taught that “therefore” justification – making one just and righteous by faith in God – MUST be applied in our every day living.
Paul’s reference to God’s mercies remind us that the whole act of salvation comes from the love of God and His sending of His only-begotten Son to the world to redeem mankind from our sins. In light of this, Paul is asking each of us to present ourselves, our whole being, spiritual and physical, without reservation to the Will of God, in obedience and humbleness to please Him who created us. Paul is urging us “to present our bodies as a living sacrifice”, meaning our activities, thoughts, hopes and dreams, our entire being as a sacrifice unto God. This is not to be confused with the sacrifice of the Jewish ritual that offered burnt animals, but it is a living sacrifice of ourselves in service to others, in strict obedience to the commandments, in helping the poor and needy, and in living an ethical and moral life.
To live a n ethical and moral life means to live a life separate from sin, especially legalized sin (wrongdoings according to the Gospel, but legal according to the state), legally manipulated benefits which in reality are sin. The reference that Paul makes to “living sacrifice” means the constant communion between the Christian and God, a communion which keeps the mind and soul alert and attuned to avoid any interference of evil.
Paul seeks this kind of life and holy sacrifice as a spiritual and reasonable worship. As such, this reasonable worship is then a spiritual service to God in spirit, in truth and to imitate Christ’s obedience to God. Jesus Christ Himself is the perfect example of the reasonable worship and service, Who submitted His own will to that of God and did what pleased God. As Christians, we must worship God reasonably through the mystery of the Holy Eucharist in which we commemorate Christ’s self-sacrifice. Spiritual service to God is offered by Christians when honoring and glorifying God both privately and openly in churches, both through words and works. The opposite of this spiritual service is hypocrisy, the most insidious sin of all for a Christian, as God disapproves of such services of Christians: “These people honor me by their lips, but their hearts are far away from me. In vain do they reverence me, teaching doctrines, the mere injunction of men” (Isaiah).
Paul also urges that we present our bodies as a living sacrifice, which means keeping the body clean in the physical sense and in denying evil thoughts from taking root. We are to understand that one’s body is “God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in us. If any one destroys god’s temple, God will destroy him”. How many Christians today fail to present themselves acceptable to God, who use only lip service, who show reverence in vain and are especially are hypocritical in their Christian living, the most dangerous situation for a Christian? It is extremely imperative for each one of us to examine ourselves and reevaluate our lives in light of the Christian Gospel, with an eye toward total obedience and submission to the Will of God.
“Aydan wa aydan bi-salamen min arrabi nutlub.”
(Arabic for: “Again and again in peace let us pray to the Lord”)
Very Rev. Fr. “Abouna” Gregori