Indicatives and imperatives. You find them both in the Bible.
Indicatives are facts. They are realities. And in the Bible, they are firm and secure because the Bible is the unchanging Word of God.
The imperatives are commands or implications. They are statements of direction, made with authority, that have a direct and expected act of obedience expected to follow.
Now often, the indicative is linked with the imperative. It’s a statement of fact with an implication of response. And most often, the indicative is about what God has done and the imperative is about what we must do, or think, or believe in response as a matter of response and obedience. The order is important here – we response because God has done. Not, we behave so that God will do. It’s the simple difference between something like “God loves you” therefore you respond, and “I am obedient” so God will love me.
The link between the indicative statement of fact and the imperative statement of response is the word “therefore.” And again, you find it all over the Bible. That single word has great power because it brings together the work of God and the response of humanity. You might even say that the entire Christian life is built on understanding these “therefore’s”.
And though they are indeed all over the Bible, there is one particular “therefore” that stands apart. And that’s the one that links the indicatives of the first part of the Book of Romans with the second:
Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship (Romans 12:1).
In the previous eleven chapters, Paul explained the universally hopeless nature of sin. He gave us the pathway of faith. He told us how we were set free from sin and death by the great sacrifice of Jesus, and that there is now no condemnation for us. Even more, that God is working all things together for our good and that nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ. These chapters contain arguably the most beautiful, most thorough, most eternity-reaching, mind-expanding, soul-bursting truths in the whole of Scripture, and they leave us asking what to do in light of them.
What comes next is a holistic command. Therefore we are to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. We are to give ourselves wholly and completely, and joyfully, over to God. All our thoughts, actions, aspirations, dreams – all our finances, time, and resources – all our habits, entertainment, and leisure – these are all laid on the altar. It is indeed a weighty command. A weighty “therefore.”
But don’t miss this – we are to do this “in view of the mercies of God.” That is the lens through which we now see every part of life in us as well as every part of life around us.
Now everyone has a set of lenses through which they process reality, and those lenses are formed by a variety of different things. They are formed by our background, our education, our families, and increasingly even our social media. Though we might not recognize it, all those things come together to form an invisible set of glasses that rest on our noses all the time. We look through those lenses to process everything happening in and around us.
What Paul is saying here is that our “view” ought to be primarily colored by the mercies of God. The mercies of God ought to change the way we see everything else.
The mercies of God change the way we see other people.
The mercies of God change the way we see our vocations.
The mercies of God change the way we see our families.
The mercies of God change the way we see our money.
Everything that passes into our minds and hearts is filtered through the lenses of the mercies of God. Or at least they should be. Which leads us to the question of the day:
What lenses are you and I really seeing the world through? Are they the lenses of self? Of power? Of insecurity? They are the lenses of something. Let us take a moment a reflect on what is impacting our vision right now, and let us renew our minds by the power of the Spirit so that we are seeing things filtered through God’s mercy.