Romans 12:1 - I beseech you therefore, sisters, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

Read this verse out loud, as it's written. Does it shock you? What kind of images come to mind?

During a lecture in my Women class today, my professor, wonderful Dr. Sakenfeld, read this passage: "I beseech you therefore..." half of the people in class were mouthing the words as she read this familiar passage. As she paused, our lips silently filled in the word that we expected, "brethren." Then she continued, "...sisters..."

I was struck dumb. As she spoke the part about presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice, my mind immediately leapt to sexual images. When I hear the text with the word "sister," my mind moves to images of women "giving themselves" to men for the sexual gratification of the man. Hearing the same text with the word "brethren," I think of a life of piety, lived for God, not for myself.

What does this say about me? What does this say about our culture? Why is it that I immediately associate sexuality and sacrifice in a female context? Did the resetting of this familiar text take anyone else by surprise?

After thinking about the way language affects our thoughts and actions for many years, the reality that just changing language is not enough was brought home to me more profoundly in the reading of that one text than in all the study I've done since college...
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