“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; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24
More than an obligation to abstinence or a community forced fast, Lent is a time of preparation for renewal. A period where we are invited to pause -examining our habits and inclinations to sin and choosing instead to reenter into the resurrected life that Christ bought for each one of us. The trouble is that the well worn sweatpants and slippers of this world are far more comfortable and accommodating than the “breastplate of righteousness”, or having our “loins girded in truth”. Not to mention this wardrobe is far more likely to draw attention, setting us apart and eliciting comments. Isn’t it enough that I show my faith in ashes and sackcloth, and give up a few luxuries for 40 days? If you find yourself unable to remember the last time you truly dressed yourself to fit the life you profess maybe this Lent can be a start to a new you.
A “futility of thinking”..
Earlier in this exhortation to Christian living in Ephesians, Paul speaks to the causes to the situation of sin we so often find ourselves in. Our propensity to replace God with worldly desires is a constant challenge. In doing this we lose our sense of purpose and direction and deep within we know that this way of thinking is wrong. For, if we are trying to please the world, we have lost before we ever begin. We compromise our values and in the process lose more than we ever thought possible. Swayed and tossed about by the opinions and example of others, our call to witness is overshadowed by the desire to fit in. Consequently, we sit in darkness and become more comfortable with it than the light of Christ, even rejecting being shown the error of our ways. When in contrast, through our baptism we have been recreated anew to be the bearers and beacons of light itself to a disbelieving darkened world.
In our separation and estrangement from God we allow our hearts to become hardened.In Greek, the word pṓrōsis, is translated both as blindness and hardness characterizing a callousness of a skin that is covering our perception and discernment. The result is a loss of sensitivity and reckless abandonment to God’s guidance in our lives. In our denial of God will we further alienate ourselves by our immoral choices. More than just a mental change in our state of mind, this pṓrōsis involves a change of heart or metanoia. A turning away from sin and a turning towards God, choosing to love instead. We are therefore in need of renewal and transformation in both heart and mind.
Yet, this call to transformation is not just personal but Paul is articulating the need for unity and cohesion as a community. There should be a distinction between those who walk in God’s ways and those who don’t. In Paul’s time, chastity and marriage exemplified this commitment to a higher standard. More than a civic obligation, marriage calls for the living out of unconditional love and sacrifice for one another. For Paul, our ethical conduct should be clear and distinct rather than muddy or darkened. It is our new identity, the old one no longer fitting or appropriate to the life we have been called to.
The temptation, however, to this idea of putting a new self is to wait till we feel new to try on new attitudes and habits. While it is said that clothes “make the man”, this is but a start of a new life. And although forty days most certainly will not be long enough to uproot long ingrained habits or eradicate predispositions, why let your transformation end here? Like anything else, a new exercise routine or eating habits, we must walk the walk and develop new ways and dispositions of being in the world. God is ready to help if we are but up for the challenge!
What is the danger in my faith becoming one of pretense? What are my comfortable clothes or habits that are keeping me from living my faith out in this world?
Lord, you call me out of the darkness to live a radically transformed life. While I may create innumerable reasons why I have chosen to cling to my old self, you remind me of the One reason I cannot remain here. Choosing to follow Christ entails more than professing my love. It requires that I take the step of making amends and renewing my commitment to this life you desire for me. Where I am resistant, please Lord help light the way and fit me to your will and purpose.