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brian walsh: targum of Romans 12:1-2

The Romans 1:1-17 targum wasn’t enough…

…I had to post this one as well…

Again, I advise reading these two simple verses in an easy-to-read translation before reading the targum…

In case it’s not obvious, Walsh is anything but a typical ‘republican-style’ Christian…

If this doesn’t stir your heart, check your pulse…

Brothers and Sisters:

If it is true that in the face of our disobedience
we have met a God rich in mercy;

if it true that this mercy extends to all of creation,
waiting in eager longing for the revelation of the children of God

if it is true that we ourselves , in concert with the Holy Spirit
await our adoption, the redemption of our very bodies;

if it true that the depths and riches and wisdom and knowledge of God
is inscrutable;

if it is true that from him, through him, and to him are all things,
and that all glory is his forever;

if all of this is true …

then I urge you with everything that I have,
…I appeal to you,
…I call out to you,

in response to the creation-restoring mercy of God,
…offer up your bodies
…these bodies redeemed by Christ

offer up your bodies
…not your devotional life, not merely your expression of piety,
…but your very bodies

offer up your bodies
…the totality of your embodied existence;
…everything you are and everything you do

offer up your bodies
…the body of Christ, the bodies of believers,
…gathered together in churches, cell groups, campus fellowships

offer up your bodies
…as nothing less than living sacrifices.

Do you want to know what spiritual worship looks like?
…It looks like bodies offered up in living sacrifice.

Do you want a worship that is vibrant, real and alive?
…Then live your entire life as an offering to the creation-redeeming God.

Do you want worship to be integral to your life, and not unrelated God-talk?
Then offer your whole embodied life
…your studies and work
…your eating and drinking
…your friendships and loves
…your voting and consuming
…your entertainment and homemaking

offer it all,
give it all,
as a living sacrifice of thanks and praise.

That’s worship!
That’s what holiness is all about!
That’s what’s acceptable to God.
That’s what spirituality is really all about.

This is spiritual worship,
because all of life is spiritual,
all of life is suffused with spirituality
…the only question is, which spirit?

So don’t be conformed but be transformed.
Don’t be enslaved by the spirits of this age,
…but be set free by the Spirit of this God of mercy.

Don’t be conformed to the spirits of this age
…the spirit of personal success and status
…the spirit of consumption as the meaning of life
…the spirit of national and personal security
…the spirit of technological innovation
…the spirit of market-defined beauty
…the spirit of sexual commodification
…the spirit of educational elitism.

These are spirits of a debased mind, these are spirits of idolatry, and they all require sacrifice:
…sacrifice of care for the dispossessed,
…sacrifice of the beauty and fecundity of the earth,
…sacrifice of economic resources in service of a military machine,
…sacrifice of the time to slow down and enjoy sabbath,
…sacrifice of our very dignity, our bodies and our sexuality,
…sacrifice of fidelity in our relationships
…sacrifice of all places in service of nomadic climbing the career ladder.

These are the sacrifices of this age,
…these are the sacrifices that these false gods require.

The God of mercy also requires sacrifice;
…the living sacrifice of bodies offered in worship,
…the living sacrifice of lives rich in gratitude,
…the living sacrifice of human life that lives not in this age,
…but in the age to come.

Refusing to be slaves of the present age,
…refusing to offer up sacrifices
…to the principalities and powers of the empire,

we offer up our whole lives as living sacrifices,
…subjects of the age to come,
…subjects of the Kingdom.

Living sacrifices, brothers and sisters,
that’s what I call you to offer.
Living sacrifices, sisters and brothers,
that’s the only appropriate response
to this creation-loving God of mercy.

Living sacrifices,
…not conformed,
…but transformed;
…not enslaved to idolatry,
…but free to bear the image of God.

Living sacrifices,
…not given over to enslaved minds,
…but liberated by transformed minds;
…not captured by the imagination of this age,
…but animated by an imagination
…that can see just beyond the range of normal sight.

Be transformed, my friends, transformed
…by the renewal of your minds.

Renewed minds,
…minds renewed for a renewed creation,
…minds renewed for a renewed culture,
…minds renewed for a Kingdom of renewal.

Living sacrifices.
Incarnated lives of renewal.
Transformed, not conformed.
Embodied spirituality.
Imaginations set free to dream otherwise.

Open your eyes.
Take a look at what’s just beyond the range of normal sight.
Don’t be duped into thinking that this world is normal.
Don’t be taken in by the rhetoric, the double-talk, the deceit of this present age.

Don’t believe that great ideas guarantee a great future:
…some great ideas can damn us and damn our children
…some great ideas are great big lies.

Don’t be a people conformed to the worldview of normalcy.

Open your eyes.
Be a people of discernment.
See the world through the tear filled eyes of the Creator.
See the world through the eyes of radical gratitude.
Discern the path ahead through the eyes of suffering service.
Discern your path, discern the will of God,
…through the eyes of Jesus

from a cross
from an empty tomb
from a seat of enthronement.

Renewed minds.
Will of God.

Bodies offered as living sacrifices
…this is acceptable and holy.

Transformed minds,
liberated imaginations,
…discerning the will of God
…discerning what is acceptable and perfect
…discerning that which makes life whole
…discerning that which renders us acceptable

acceptable to God,
whole in ourselves.

Discerning the will of God
…in the lab,
…in the lecture hall,
…in the seminar room,
…in the dining room,
…in the bedroom,
…in the boardroom
…in the voting booth.

Discerning people,
…discerning imaginations,
…discerning hearts,
…discerning lives.

Lives transformed,
…lives set free.

27 replies on “brian walsh: targum of Romans 12:1-2”

I like it, its a big challenge to Christians though. I hear the same message in your targum Dale. I know if I asked people where I could find most Christians in my town, I would be directed to the church that was flavour of the month through offering the most to its members. I wouldnt expect be told “They’ll be on the steps of the courthouse helping the criminals, they’ll be in the poor suburbs as they give their money away and stand beside the poor, they’ll be overseas helping out in third world countries…” or even better “How can you miss them, they are not of this world” Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met Christians who do bits and pieces of the latter within their otherwise comfortable, conformist existence but this passage demands ‘whole life sacrifice.’ And its interesting that discernment follows such sacrifice. Should we really listen to leaders whose own lives havent shown ‘whole life sacrifice’?

You’ve nailed it, Jack.

The struggle to not be conformed and to be a living sacrifice is one I certainly wrestle with. Do I really need my coffee machine (even though I paid well below cost for it, etc., etc.), couldn’t I save more money by not eating out, and have more to give away; enough to sponsor 1-2 more children, etc.

I’m preaching in this vein this Sunday evening at my church; using lots of pictures of adverts, showing how they attack our imaginations… It’s quite a hobby-horse of mine… :)

And, of course, this isn’t just a message for ‘Christians’ – it’s a message (to use the Title of N.T. Wright’s New Testament commentary series) ‘For Everyone’. It’s really about being human. It’s about not simply being our natural desires and urges (which advertising preys so sneakily on), but rising above them and bringing God’s justice and order to the world…


Nah – I haven’t nailed it : ) – only that I know I’m not up to the call of whole life sacrifice, I’m too selfish. But do ‘followers of Christ’ answer the call to whole life sacrifice or are they really just ‘admirers of Christ?’ And then it gets complicated because there has to be a place for desires too, in that business sustains economies and a lot of business is sustained by our desires. If the poor are to develop their own sustainable trades, wont they need others to desire their goods? You could choose takeaways and make a difference for the local fish n chip shop owner ; )

There’s a bit of a saying which says that ‘the only problem with a living sacrifice is that it will keep crawling off the altar…’ Only too true in my life… :)

Indeed (like so many other things) there is a need for a kind of ‘balance’ here (though I think ‘balance’ isn’t quite the word for it?). To totally suppress all desires is just as de-humanising as being totally controlled by them.

On the whole business side of things, I freely admit my idealism when it comes to my criticism of capatlism. I don’t buy the ‘tide that lifts many small boats’ story… A country having a ‘growing economy’ is a statistical (monetary) thing which says nothing about whether the poor are being fed or not, or if trade is happening justly, etc.

On that note (and you’re right about our consumption keeping other people alive), an important thing to realise (based on what I’ve seen) is that trade is more important than aid. By all means, we need to give aid, cut debt and make good on our millennium development goals (see… but fairly trading would lift the poorest nations out of poverty much quicker than aid…

Funny that. Our most direct way to help the poor is often the very way we keep them poor – by our desire for cheap goods. My home country leads the world in keeping the poor at the bottom…

Selflessness is serious stuff, huh?


Serious stuff alright. I have discussed with my Biology students in the past whether we are even capable of a single selfless act. It gets tricky when you have to exclude acts that have benefits inclduing those that “made me feel good” and “eased my conscience” “boosted my confidence” “gave me satisfaction” etc. I challenged the students as to whether they could send $500 anonymously to a randomly selected person from the phone book (to factor out the afore mentioned benefits of helping the poor). None of them could do it.

Anyway, hope the sermon went well : )

You’ll be pleased to know Damian that the curriculum now has very little room for a teacher to go with the flow of what kids are asking – so no I don’t get the chance to digress into such issues much now. Its all about assessment, you cover what will be assessed, you teach them to write what the examiners want to read…boring :(

Damian – I should explain that the time I was discussing post 5 with Y13 students in the context of learning about the meaning of altruism “any act or behaviour which results in an individual increasing the genetic fitness of another at the expense of its own, eg by devoting large amounts of time and resources to caring for another individual’s offspring at the expense of producing its own” (Henderson’s Dictionary of Biological Terms). It followed on from a discussion about natural selection and survival of the fittest and how/why altruistic behaviours may evolve.
By the way, were you concerned? Why?

No no, I just wondered what the link between biology and the topics you mentioned.

Have you ever read The Selfish Gene (Richard Dawkins’ 1976 book on genetic evolution)? If not you might be interested in some of the explanations he gives for a genetic basis for altruism.

No I havent, thanks for that – might have to check it out, I am however aware of plenty of possible advantages for a population in being altruistic. I wish I had more time for reading, I’ve heard of other countries where secondary teachers do get a time allowance for continued study in their field, I think it would be most beneficial.

The ‘altruism’ topic seems to me to be related to the ‘free will’ topic… There may well be plenty of biological data of all kinds, by which these things are said to be an ‘illusion’ or otherwise explained, but I do think our own conscious experience suggests (screams?) that there’s more going on…

The free will topic seems interesting especially… It seems the most obvious fact in the world that, of course, we do make choices this way or that, and that these choices are not made ‘for us’… Of course, there’s biological/neural phenomena that correlate to them – what mental processes would there not be such phenomena? We do make choices. We will continue to learn more and more (and more) about what is biologically happening (or whatever) when we make them, but this does not – it cannot – demonstrate that we don’t actually make them.

And the whole point about altruism was never that “…we can do it and monkeys can’t…”, but it’s about “…we should be altruistic more often!” Why are we often selfish? How can we be less so? That’s what I’m interested in… Humans, for whatever reason, are often selfish (just watched ‘Sicko’, a Michael Moore doco on the U.S. Health Care System… It’s all about the money, baby…). Less of this is good, I’m thinking… :)

We’ve got heaps of potential. We can not only cause much good, but we can prevent much bad. Ability + opportunity = responsibility. I don’t know the neurology of that, but I just ‘know’ – you know? :) And you don’t need a bible to know this…


Why are we selfish – biologically speaking our behaviours are about increasing our chances of survival so that we can reproduce. How can we be less so? Well, we have caring behaviours as well as this is advantageous for raising offspring etc so it comes down to choice as you say but we tend to choose things that are advantageous for us – perhaps the trick is in acknowledging our selfishness and rewarding unselfish behaviour – but then is it unselfish ? ; ). I know for me I’ve found it easier to be caring if a) i’m part of team so that I gain the sense of unity that comes from doing good together b) i’m acknowledged, so that I gain self esteem in feeling valued c) I’m not buffered from the reality – I can see the results of my work as opposed to just sending away money and hoping someone uses it well (this gives me job satisfaction – the biblical line that true joy comes from giving and not receiving). I gain, I gain, I get…

Good stuff Jack,
“…biologically speaking our behaviours are about increasing our chances of survival…”
Agreed, and I don’t even think we need biology to tell us that! :)
I also fully agree about acknowledging selfishness and rewarding unselfishness. That’s pretty much the basics of parenting, isn’t it? The illusion is that once we ‘grow up’, we don’t need it anymore! :)
Also, I like your a,b,c. I agree with all three.
On ‘a’ (‘doing good’ teams)
I reckon that the team approach not only keeps us accountable to doing good (maybe less likely on our own?), but also foster an important ethic of equality/unity. This non-hierarchical approach is powerful. I reckon when you have a ‘pyramid’ structure, you will (sooner or later) have to deal with the problem of power (and it’s tendency to corrupt things).
It is here that I must mention the (strictly historically speaking) completely ‘backwards’ notions of Jesus: in giving instruction to his followers (last supper), he reminded them of the ‘lording’ of power seen by the ‘rulers of the Gentiles’ (Romans are in view here), and said “It is not to be so among you.” He then not only told them that to be great was to be a servant, but then showed them by beginning to wash their feet (to the shock of the disciples). In other words, the ‘team’ Jesus was starting was not to have him at the ‘top’, but rather at it’s ‘bottom’.
I also like your ‘b’, in that I think recognition and valuing of workers is always a good thing. Of course, to do good merely to be recognised leaves a sour taste for others (but at least the good was done?). My mom told me of some ladies in her church who had shared a project they’d done (can’t remember what it was), and eventually became urgently inquisitive: “Well aren’t we going to be officially recognised for what we’ve done!?” No joke… :)
And your ‘c’ is key as well. I don’t (and neither I suspect do you) think that giving to aid organisations should be neglected (it is a valid and simple way to make much real difference – see ‘tear fund’ on my ‘saving the world’ page), but doing things yourself and/or seeing the good that results from it is important. And yes, Jesus did say that it’s more ‘blessed’ to give than receive. Does this make doing good (i.e. ‘giving’) selfish? I would say that our motivations can always be less-than-pure, I don’t think it has to be the case. And, importantly, I don’t think that looking forward to the ‘good feeling’ you get from doing good is at all selfish.

GREAT thoughts…


Why are we selfish – biologically speaking our behaviours are about increasing our chances of survival so that we can reproduce.

At a genetic level where behaviour is determined entirely by inherited genes and not memes (or ideas/concepts) we can see how altruism can be of evolutionary benefit. A common mistake many decades ago was to assume that evolution worked for the benefit of a group or even an individual organism. The work that Richard Dawkins and others contributed to our understanding of evolution showed that evolution works at the level of the individual gene. He demonstrated that a gene can act entirely ‘selfishly’ but that it may look like altruism at the macro level.

The two main areas that were highlighted was kin selection (where it is beneficial for a gene to allow closely related genes to survive – i.e. a mother sacrificing herself for her children is beneficial at the genetic level) and with reciprocal altruism where you do something nice for someone expecting them to be nice back.

When organisms develop the ability to share not just genes but memes as well you can get really complex cases where altruism may not be helping the survival of a gene but is of benefit to the meme and the other way around or a combination of the both.

Anyway as you can imagine this is a vast topic and if you want to get fully into it you can read about it in The Selfish Gene or feel free to throw some questions at me (but is the “Targum” thread the best place for it??).

Thanks Damian,
As I mentioned above, while I am deeply interested in biological ideas as to what may be happening at one level, I’m primarily and passionately interested in how we humans can choose to be self-less more often, etc.
See ya tonight…

…and I can hear you (possibly) thinking, “But Dale, the biological phenomena is ALL that is happening; THAT is how we can ‘choose’ to be self-less…”

To be sure, I never want to suppress scientific knowing, explorations and explanations. Not at all. But I still remain firmly unconvinced that our ‘choices’ are illusionary. I believe we have the ability to change, to be different, to be transformed… In scientific langauge (if we’re forced to use such language), this might be called (my coined term in another post) ‘neural imaginitive momentum’ or ‘neuroplasticity’ as one commenter (who is a neurologist) said…
…but in language that most of us understand (language which resonates with every-day experience), we call it a change of heart and mind… I believe we can be re-wired… I believe we are responsible for the care of our bodies – even our neurological pathways and networks.

Now, of course, the actions of others can obviously affect not only our bodies, but also our neural associations (i.e. the rape of a woman no doubt affects both…), but this only widens our responsibility, not narrows it. We are not only responsible for our own bodies (including our brain/neural maps), but also responsible for how our actions affect the bodies (and brains) of others…


“Good stuff Jack”

Such positive feedback – I’ll just have to give more now : )

I agree the team approach needs to be non hierach – yuck thats hard to spell – you know what I mean. But I think too that this doesnt mean there shouldnt be a leader, someone to challenge and give direction (as Jesus did) , but as you say, not to exploit this role. I find otherwise that groups can also been their own worst enemy – justifying their lack of action with/by each other – eg, he’s not doing anything either.
I laughed at the ladies in church asking outright for recognition. Its refreshing honesty, better than hinting at it or getting all bitter cos no-one appreciates ya : )
And yes, I don’t mean to discredit such initiatives as ‘tearfund’ but even these fundraisers are working at making the giving more personal by giving photos of a child etc. I think some of the intrepid journeys trips look great too where you can pay to go help overseas as a holiday with a difference.

Another kind of random thought I was having in regard to selfishness is about organ donation – that so few people in NZ are willing to donate body parts on their death. I don’t get it, obviously this isnt being selfish for survival when the donor’s already dead and not donating hinders the population’s survival. Perhaps Damian its more to do with these memes, cultural lessons that have people withholding body parts for their afterlife?? For those that don’t choose to donate, I’d be interested to know why not?

Thanks Jack,
(I’ll try not to sound too overly enthusiastic about your comments…) : )
Your mention of organ donation and the possible cause of after-life notions, etc. made me imagine a (hopefully humorous) distortion of a saying of Jesus…
“No one takes my life from me. I lay it down of my own accord. I have the authority to lay it down, and I have the authority to take it up again… err… umm… that is unless one of my well-meaning, but misled disciples decides he wants to be nice and donate one of my organs to someone…”
If you can’t already tell from the sarcastic tone of that joke, I see no (theological) reason to not donate body organs upon death; and every (theological) reason to do so…

Now, having said that, I would add that I prefer burial as opposed to things like cremation or being burned. The reason for this is not that I think God is not able to resurrect cremated people, but I think the method of burial ‘looks forward’ more to resurrection than other methods… Also, it might even be more eco-friendly!

: ( I liked overly enthusiastic!

“I see no theological reason to not donate body organs upon death and every theological reason to do so”

Why do you think it is that 75 % of Kiwis choose not to?

That’s interesting about the preference for burial, I’d prefer to be buried too – you’re right, more eco-friendly, an altruistic gift for the microbes and plants ; ). However, statistically most people (I think) prefer cremation and I’m guessing this is because the idea of decomposition freaks them out ?? (Maybe cremation choosers can enlighten me). Btw, what do you mean by “looks forward”?
I note too that a lot of people are quite concerned about where they are buried with these corpse abductions of late. Its interesting how folk like the idea of being buried by their relatives. I know in part its about convenience for the living visiting dead relatives but I think too there is this sense of something more. When we buried our son, a friend thought it was important that he be buried in the part of the cemetry with other babies and children so that he had some company. This seemed bizarre to me.

I wonder how much simple apathy and/or un-awareness might be the reason why 75% don’t donate body organs? I would reckon that’s a big reason why…

What I mean by ‘looks forward’ is that burial can be seen to ‘anticipate’ the resurrection – the resurrection of the body. The parallel here is between ‘bodily burial’ and ‘bodily resurrection’.

As for the location of burial, I would respectfully say it doesn’t matter… :)



Yes maybe its apathy / unawareness but most people seem to be able to fill out the rest of their drivers licence application. I think NZ is going to shift to a ‘by default’ system where everyone is automatically a donor unless they request otherwise. This has dramatically raised donor ‘consent’ overseas, not sure its ethical to assume ‘ no comment’ is ‘yes.’

I do find this ‘looking forward’ idea interesting though- is it kind of like reducing Gods workload – if God promises to resurrect the body then it seems like a good idea to bury the body? But then the body decomposes to almost nothing anyway. But then you’ll be easier for God to find than servant’s ash cloud ; ) Or do you see the bodies being raised at the site where they were buried, in which case people might want to be buried close (or as far as possible ; ) ) from their relatives? I’m guessing maybe this ‘looking forward’ and having your body buried is kind of like honouring, respecting God’s promise to raise ‘bodies’?? Cos otherwise regarding cremation or burial, I would respectfully say it doesn’t matter too. Aside, of course from considering the needs of the living. Servant, have you checked with your nearest and dearest whether they would be Ok about burning you – a great dinner table conversation!

Interesting question as to the ethics of ‘donor unless otherwise indicated’. If individual human rights (as much emphasis as possible on the word ‘individual’) are the most important thing to protect, then yes, this might be seen as ‘unethical’…
…but what of the view that says that all human life (as much emphasis as possible on the word ‘all’) is the most important thing to protect? Maybe then it is ‘unethical’ not to be a donor?

An interesting parallel could be the notion I’ve heard that wealthy nations should (ethically speaking) be taxed whatever it takes to provide basic needs for those in extreme poverty. Pretty hard to argue against it, I think; though our western ‘democratic’ tendencies can easily find it offensive…

On ‘burial/resurrection’:
That’s exactly what I’m saying. Looking toward… anticipating… honouring… respecting… etc. I should say that this preference I have (shared with many) could never be overly important; for example, if cremation was clearly a better option environmentally, etc. then I would go with that…
But certainly I’m not suggesting that God would need our help finding or raising ‘us’ (whatever state of decomposition)…


Thanks for the clarification Dale

Watching the news tonight, I think the most environmentally friendly option might be this new idea of keeping the body in dry ice. This uses up carbon dioxide (keeping it cool enough to be solid instead of a nasty greenhouse gas) and prevents any release of carbon dioxide by the respiration of microbes that would normally be breaking the body down. Perfect – and a Kiwi came up with this idea. However, so far the only clue he has given for keeping his dead girlfriend on dry ice is that it was for ‘religious reasons’ ???

Dry ice, huh? Weird. :)
‘religious reasons’ for keeping dead girlfriend? Very weird… :)

And the expensiveness of this is of huge importance. Might be the most ‘eco’ friendly, but geez, I doubt it’s financially sustainable! :) Surely standard burial is eco-friendly enough! I saw a TV program (can’t remember which channel, etc.) that I think was mentioning people being buried outside of caskets – I guess so the body could get to pushing up daisies all the sooner!

Oh yeah, I definitely wouldn’t wish that to be an option for my burial.

BTW, if those still around when I die wish to see me off some other way (other than cremation), they’re more than welcome. Given the circumstance, I don’t think I’ll be in a situation to really care :D

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