Every follower of the Lord Jesus Christ makes a commitment at baptism to serve him. But the question arises as to how far and to what extent life should be taken up with this service to Christ. In Romans 12 the apostle Paul speaks of our “reasonable service”. What is implied by this statement? Are we to render limited and qualified service, taking our own interests and desires into account when we make such a decision? Or has the apostle something else in mind?

The context of the apostle’s words shows that a much greater commitment is called for as our “reasonable service”. After setting forth the doctrinal matters relating to Jew and Gentile justification in Christ, and the significance of true baptism into Christ, he comes to the practical issues. Correct practice must follow correct doctrine. He has made it clear that both Jews and Gentiles are utterly dependent on the “mercies of God” (Rom 11:30–32). On the ground of this appreciation he beseeches them to present their bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God. They were to offer their lives as a sacrifice to God, just as the priest of Israel presented sacrifices to Him. But there is a significant difference. They, or to make it more personal, we are still alive! This is a paradox, for how can a sacrifice be alive? The “sacrifices” to be made are detailed in the verses which follow which call upon believers to faithfully perform their roles in the ecclesia and to act towards each other in a humble and Christ-like way. As we read these words we can see that it is no small undertaking that is indicated, but a serious and full giving over of oneself which bears upon every aspect of our lives.

Paul says that such a “living sacrifice” on our part must be “holy” and be “acceptable to God”. There is little point offering to God that which He finds unacceptable as happened, for example, in the days of Malachi (1:6–8). In order to impress upon us that God does not require of us what is impossible to render or excessive, the apostle calls the presentation of our bodies as living sacrifices “our reasonable service”. The Greek word for “reasonable” is logiken, from which the English word logic is derived, and the word means “rational, logical”.

So what then is the logic behind such reasoning? We are left in no doubt, for the pen of the apostle Paul tells us what drives him, when he says, “For the love of Christ constraineth us [rsv controls us]; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again”. Here is Paul’s secret, the abiding rationale of his life that controlled him and caused him to devote his life in service to Christ. It was the awareness of the “mercies of God” or “love of Christ” for him that he could never forget and which became the constant in his mind. He was motivated by this inexplicable and profound love which had turned him from being an enemy of Christ and a murderer into a humble devoted servant. And the same principle applies in our own lives too. Love is the most powerful force on earth. Where would we be if the love of Christ and mercies of God had not arrested us on the paths of our lives? Left to ourselves we would have been the servants of Sin receiving the appropriate wages—death and oblivion.

So what then is our “reasonable service”? Is it not the fulsome devotion of our lives to the service of God, seen in our commitment to family and ecclesia? Is it not logical that every aspect of our lives should be orientated to service to our merciful Creator? Have we not so much to be thankful for and to rejoice in? In these uncertain times when men’s hearts are failing them for fear, we have no need for fear. For we know that these times portend our Lord’s appearing and the blessings he will bring to us and at length to the whole world.

So if we have other objectives, goals and agendas we need to think seriously about the apostle’s words. Let us meditate upon what the “mercies of God” mean to us. Let us ask ourselves what we can give back in return; indeed, what is our “reasonable service”. Other agendas in life must be made subservient to service to Christ. Let us keep our lives uncluttered and simple lest we fail to render what we ought. And let us remember, too, what the perfect servant said—“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt 6:24).