How Parents Offer a Living Sacrifice
Submitted by Jennifer Power
Romans 12:1-2 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. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
What is a Living Sacrifice?
What is a living sacrifice, and what does living sacrifice have to do with our roles as parents? One of our key verses in our TRANSFORMED series is Romans 12:2, but we must look back at verse one to help us get a better understanding of what it means to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. I would like today to help you gain a better understanding of Romans 12:1-2 then present some application for what this means to us as parents.
N.T. Wright in Paul for Everyone: Romans, Part 2 explains that a living sacrifice stands in contrast to a sacrifice which results in the death of either an animal or (as seen on the cross) in the death of Jesus. In a living sacrifice, we offer ourselves upon the altar not to die (although our sinful nature dies in the process), but to come to life through the life of Christ. This life is not just a bettering of our old life but a life which is something completely different and new. In this new life, we receive the actual life of God alive in us and us in it.
As Christians, we have the life of Christ within us.
It is in offering ourselves as a living sacrifice that God transforms us so we actually become more like Christ in our thoughts, words, and works.
We can be conformed – we can be transformed – by the work of Christ within us, only as we offer ourselves to God as a living sacrifice. We are able to offer ourselves to Christ because He loves us and we love and trust Him. As we offer ourselves to Him, fully and completely without reservation or withholding, we can trust that He has already given us His life and is at the same time making us alive by transforming us into His likeness. We are already holy and acceptable to God because of the work of Christ. What remains is to be transformed so we actually become more and more like Christ.
Several months ago, I wrote some blog posts about parenting in the example of Jesus. Although in scripture marriage is intended to reflect the relationship of Christ and the church, I believe we can also reflect this relationship through our parenting. As we offer our parenting to God as a living sacrifice, we have an opportunity to reflect the relationship between God and the church through the way we parent our children. We can look at the larger picture of scripture to see how God the Father treats His children and use this as a base and model for how we treat our children.
What does this mean for our parenting?
1. Rely on God
First, it means we must offer our parenting fully and completely to God. We must rely on Him in every way and learn how to trust and listen to His voice to discern our approaches and methods for parenting. Our parenting must be a living sacrifice to God for the sake of our children if we hope real life will spring forth from our efforts.
What does it mean to offer our parenting fully and completely to God? What does it mean to rely on Him? It means we cultivate a relationship with Christ rooted in listening and in obedience. We will not be able to offer our parenting in a sacrificial manner to God if we do not know what He would have us do as parents. We have to do more than learn about parenting techniques and theories. Any person in the world can seek out the advice of experts, but only a Christian with a living, breathing relationship with Him hearing His voice and responding in obedience can offer their parenting as a living sacrifice to God.
So, we pray for our kids; we pray for our parenting; we seek to grow in the depth of our love of God; and we learn to walk in reliance upon Him for the well-being of our children. When we sense worry for our children moving in, we allow our hearts to dwell on the goodness God has shown to us, and we offer Him our trust, believing He loves our children more than we do.
We then look to the sacrifice of Christ as our rock and source of our ability to sacrifice ourselves in our parenting (and in every area of our life). We see that, for our good, God did not withhold the life of His precious Son for our benefit. Christ, after all, was not sacrificed for the sake of sacrifice but for the sake of our good.
2. Do Research
We live in an information age. There are downfalls to technology, but there are also great benefits. With all the information available to us regarding parenting choices, it would be poor stewardship to not educate ourselves. We must be able to do research in a discerning manner to help us make informed choices when considering various parenting techniques and approaches. Considering long-term goals for child-raising and comparing these to the effects of well-researched parenting approaches is a valuable practice for Christian parents.*
3. Consider Motives
The next step we can take in offering our parenting as a living sacrifice is to consider Christ’s motive for His sacrifice as well as our motives for sacrificing for our children. Are we sacrificing to be a martyr and so we can complain about how much we sacrifice for our children? Or, do we sacrifice because we are trying to keep up with the status quo and because we believe our children will be “missing out” if we do not give them every possible opportunity? Do we sacrifice because we think we have to?
Are our sacrifices rooted in genuine good or are they covers for selfish ambition, prestige, power, or money? Do we work long hours, sacrificing time with our families, for money or status and convince ourselves we are doing it to provide every opportunity to our kids when actually we are motivated by greed, power, or ambition? Do we give in to our children’s every whim believing Godly sacrifice requires us to give them everything they want and whine for?
We must consider: do we honestly make calculated and prayerful sacrifices for the genuine good of our children?
It is beneficial to prayerfully and carefully examine the motives of our sacrifice for our children to see if our sacrifice is really for their good or if it is for another reason altogether.
It is good to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God for the sake of our children if we are being led by God and are doing it for their genuine good. It is harmful to sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice or for self-motivated purposes.
There are times I make a sacrifice for my children because I do not want to hear them whine. This is not a good sacrifice.
There are other times I make regular and consistent sacrifices for my children because I firmly believe it is for their genuine good. I have chosen to offer up my sleep, for example, as a living sacrifice to my children because I have come to believe (through prayer, instinct, and thorough research) that they are better off if I respond to their cries for comfort in the middle of the night instead of leaving them to cry alone. This has often left me exhausted and wondering how much longer I can go on in this manner. However, God has sustained me these last five years of inconsistent sleep. He has taken my living sacrifice and provided me with rest when I need it, and He has graciously allowed me to witness some of the benefits to my children which my sacrifice is purchasing for them. With this particular sacrifice, I have no regrets.
We as parents must think carefully about the sacrifices we are making for our children. We must consider our motivation for our sacrifice, ensuring the sacrifices are for the genuine good of our children and are rooted in solid research and leading by the Holy Spirit. Research can be a wonderful aid in discerning the will of God since, as the creator of the universe, He put the natural laws into place which are the objects of examination by researchers.
We must do all three. We cannot simply think logically about whether or not our sacrifices are beneficial to our children or simply do solid research or simply pray without utilizing our God-given minds in proper thinking and research. We must think through the motivations for our sacrifices. We must do good research in selecting parenting methods. We must cultivate a living and breathing relationship with God so we can hear His voice and respond in obedience.
We must be willing to offer up ourselves as parents fully to God in whatever way He shows us to be best without regard for our own good – after all, in our sacrifice, God is doing more than providing good for our children, He is also making us (as parents) fully alive in Him.
Blessings on your parenting journey!
*If you need help finding appropriate material to research appropriate parenting techniques, I would love to assist you by recommending solid resources for parenting. You can reach me by phone at (217)423-6955 or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).