“. . . offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God . . .” – Romans 12:1
We have a neighbor around the corner from us named Steve. I don’t know Steve’s last name, nor as far as I know does he know mine. Nevertheless we have become friendly neighbors. Steve has this beautiful Golden Retriever he takes for walks through the neighborhood and if I happen to be in the yard he’ll stop and chat while our dogs sniff each other. I like Steve a lot, not only because he’s friendly and has a nice dog, but he also seems to understand that to be a neighbor means more than just living in the privacy of one’s home. To him being a neighbor is a position of responsibility.
The Wall Street Journal related a beautiful story this past week that captured my attention. It was about an elderly couple married since their early twenties, their contributions to society throughout their lives, and now in their mid-nineties and failing health their commitment to take care of each other. In the article was a quote by German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer from a letter he had written while in a Nazi prison to his niece before her wedding. “Marriage is more than your love for each other,” he wrote. “In your love you see only the heaven of your own happiness, but in marriage you are placed in a post of responsibility toward the world and mankind. Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more than something personal – it is a status, an office.”
What Bonhoeffer describes of marriage is true of other stations in life as well – the position we hold in our workplaces and within our careers, among our families, and in our neighborhoods and communities. The life, for example, that Steve lives inside his home is personal, but once he steps out the door into the neighborhood he is placed in a post of responsibility toward the world and mankind. And he seems to get that.
The Apostle Paul reminds us of this awesome responsibility. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers,” he says, “in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.”