Quid Pro Quo Obliterated
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.
Almost all religions in the Greco-Roman world involved sacrifices of one kind or another. People would offer their gifts to the gods in order to gain their favor. If you wanted a successful harvest, you’d offer sacrifices to Ceres, the goddess of agriculture. If you needed physical healing, then sacrifices to Apollo or Asklepius were due, and so forth and so on. The main point of such sacrifices was not to offer worship to a god, but to get the god to do something for you. It was religious quid pro quo: you give something, you get something in return.
Christianity confused people in Greco-Roman society for many reasons. One was that it didn’t require sacrifices in order to appease the gods and gain their favor. Christians proclaimed that the one true God had already offered favor freely through Christ. The sacrifices of the Christian life, which were quite different from the norm in the Roman world, were not offered in order to get something from God, but rather in response to what God had already given.
This is made abundantly clear in Romans 12:1, where the sacrifice required is a response “to God because of all he has done for you.” As we saw in yesterday’s reflection, a more literal translation highlights God’s “mercies” as the basis for our sacrificial response. We do not do what God requires so that we might get something from God. The quid pro quo of common religion is obliterated by the grace of God in Christ.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Are you ever tempted to think of your good works as a way of earning God’s favor? What helps you to live in the freedom of the Gospel?
PRAYER: Gracious and merciful God, how I thank you that I do not have to earn your favor. You have already given this to me in greater measure than I can comprehend. Thank you!
I must confess, however, that there are times I slip back into a quid pro quo way of thinking. I do things, right things, in order to get some reward from you. My theology tells me how foolish this is. But my feelings sometimes overwhelm my thinking. Forgive me, Lord, when I negate your grace by trying to earn it. By your Spirit, help me to live in the joyous freedom of your grace, offering my sacrifice in response to your far greater sacrifice given to me in Christ.
All praise be to you, gracious and merciful God, for offering yourself to me in love. Amen.