Romans 12:1-8; Self-Sacrifice
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Romans 12:1-8; Self-Sacrifice 

In this passage, Paul’s teaches, “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (12:1). Paul calls on Christians to sacrifice themselves to God, which constitutes a shift from the ancient Hebrew practice of sacrificing nonhuman beings. Almost all the other ancient world religions prescribed sacrificing humans and/or nonhumans in an effort to appease God and be forgiven for sins. The logic of sacrifice involves scapegoating, i.e., the transfer of guilt onto innocent individual(s). In this passage, it appears that Paul rejects this logic.
How do we “present [our] bodies”? I think this involves giving our time and energy to serve God. The Romans passage continues, “Do not be conformed to this world” (12:2), which I take to mean that we should not allow worldly concerns to dictate our lives. Yet I don’t see any problem with addressing our own needs and desires, as long as doing so doesn’t undermine our greater calling to serve God. If we failed to take care of ourselves, we would eventually “burn out,” suffer spiritual or physical death, and be unable to continue to serve God.

I think that salvation includes this transformation from a person dedicated to satisfying one’s own desires to one whose whole being is focused on God. This is why I think that eating animals and animal products is a sign that one is not saved. I don’t think that diet determines salvation; instead, I think diet reflects one’s relationship with God. 

Go on to: Romans 12:9-21
Return to: Reflection on the Lectionary, Table of Contents 

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