Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2 (NASB)
Do you sometimes have the feeling that you live in Sodom? The city of Sodom was notorious for its insensitivity to human values, its crass manners, its gross violations of basic standards of human decency. The men of Sodom violated and abused visitors to the city. When the angels visited Lot they were threatened with the most humiliating and degrading acts to their bodily and spiritual integrity. Sodom was so notorious that Abraham bargained with God for its survival. God promised that Sodom would be spared if only a handful of righteous people could be found there. But its wickedness was so profound, the city was destroyed.
There are times, I suppose, that we all feel we live in Sodom. Media news reports are often bad–seldom good. No city deserves to be thought of as Sodom; because for every bad person we can find hundreds of decent people we love and respect.
But the question Paul dealt with is still important: how can we live with integrity in a Sodom-like world? There is a shadow side to America the beautiful. An evil permeates every level of society. Paul was talking to people who lived in Rome, but it seemed like Sodom. The problem was how to live within a pagan society with integrity. How could they be moral when they were surrounded by decadent patterns of behavior?
Paul’s counsel was simple and straightforward: “I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of the world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” The point was to live in such a way that one’s life becomes a living worship–an expression of one’s commitment to the living Christ.
Our world is a place of violence, of greed for power, and of insatiable lust. Many are deeply divided, hostile, and paranoid. They lack a sense of community, show little compassion toward the needy, and hardly trust one another. Unless we live with integrity, we fall prey to destructive forces, both personal and social. The task is not to conform but to be transformed by the renewal of our minds. The issue is to think in different ways, adopt a different way of life, be a living sacrifice so that our life is one of worship.
The ways of Sodom are never far from us. They tempt us to settle down and live a life of conformity to cultural norms, to be a part of the culture.
Paul has an answer to that temptation. The challenge for Christians is to live with integrity even if you live in Sodom. Living there may be unavoidable, but losing our integrity there is not necessary.