CULTIVATING OUR OWN IMAGE
Lord, teach me to unlearn what the world has taught me.
Read EPHESIANS 4:17–24
Instructions for Christian Living
17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image’ (2 Cor 3:18).
The word ‘Gentiles’ earlier referred to Christians of different racial and cultural backgrounds, but here ‘Gentiles’ means the human world outside the Christian group. We live in the human world. The constant struggle for Christians is how to live in the world without being tainted by it. Paul describes the cultural context surrounding the first Christians throughout the Roman Empire as given over to sensuality, indulgence in impurity, and the lust for more (19). Do we recognize our own society? The answer has to be both no and yes. Those of us fortunate enough to live in western-style democracies and particularly, like me, in middle-class suburbia, know that our neighbors are decent, charitable, morally upright people. That is because in the past, Christians have been the salt of the earth and their influence on society is still discernible today.
But my teenaged grandchildren are growing up in a world where self-indulgence is becoming the norm. Celebrities are the new heroes: their opulence, their plastic surgery, and their sex lives pervade our TV screens. Children encounter questions about their sexual orientation in primary school. They are constantly besieged by the media urging them to ‘just do it’. People on social media post happy images, photo-shopped to depict themselves always looking beautiful. Today’s reading tells us that self-images are deceptive, not only to others but also to ourselves. The image we must cultivate is the image into which God wants to shape us, characterized by righteousness and holiness, words rarely posted on Facebook or Instagram. We must indeed cultivate a new image and not the world’s image but God’s image.
‘Higher than the highest heavens, / deeper than the deepest sea, / Lord, thy love at last hath conquered; / grant me now my heart’s petition, none of self, and all of thee’ (Theodore Monod, 1836–1921, ‘Oh, the bitter shame and sorrow’).
Lord, in our hearts we long to become fashioned more and more into Your image so that we can please You with our new lifestyle.