Monday, December 5, 2011

I am not a Butterfly

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

When trying to find an analogy for 2 Corinthians 5:17, preachers seem to always pick the caterpillar-to-butterfly metamorphosis as their prime example and best proof-text of how to explain what it means to be a "new creature."   They apparently think it's a good analogy because it demonstrates a creature of one type becoming a creature of another type, which does seem to fit the pattern being described by Paul in this instance.

The problem, as I see it, is that I'm not a butterfly.  I don't understand what it means to be a caterpillar, to gorge myself on leaves, spin a cocoon and hope for the best, that I might later emerge as a butterfly and flutter about a flowery field.  I don't know about you, but that's just not in my realm of possibilities, let alone personal experience.

I suppose the main problem I have with this analogy is that it requires too much of the imaginative.  While we can clearly observe the changes that have taken place in the metamorphic process, I really have no I idea what it's like from the perspective of the caterpillar nor from the reborn butterfly.  I can assume that the caterpillar likes to crawl around on trees eat leaves, for that's what I know of it's existence.  I can further assume that the butterfly likes to flutter about in the wind and light upon various types flowers for lunch and dinner.  But that's about it really.

But I can't really apply any of those things to my life as a Child of God, unless I delve into legalism.

The butterfly and the caterpillar do different things by mode of their basic natures.  We could say that the spirit of both creatures is entirely different.  But for the struggling Child of God, the one who doesn't understand the nature of their battles, they will take this metamorphic example and force themselves into different behaviors.  They clothe themselves with Man's righteousness and Man's laws: don't taste, don't touch, don't handle (Colosians 2:20) or my favorite Baptist mantra: "don't drink or smoke or chew, or go with those that do."  And so they will begin the journey of self righteousness and self flagellation, from which springs the ever so prevalent attitudes that we associate with the sanctimonious.

Is there a better analogy? I think there is, and I believe scripture provides the appropriate picture.
For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. (Romans 7:2)

Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.”  It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.  Then he said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.” (Revelation 19:7-9)
 When two people are joined in marriage, a new covenant is born within each of them.  They have together a new relationship, a new life.  Their motives change from serving self interests, to serving one another.  The old ways of sharing their heart with different people has been discarded: they now share intimacy with only one person - their spouse.  Before marriage, they lived alone, now they live together.  Before marriage, they sojourned alone, now they sojourn together.  Before marriage, they longed for someone to share their life, now they no longer search for that special someone. You see, the marriage covenant transforms us into new creatures: the old things have passed away, and the new has come.

But it also does something else: it shows us that there are things which we carry with us into this new life: attitudes and beliefs that must be discarded.  While the metamorphic example of the caterpillar is very good at demonstrating the complete and radical change which does take place at the new birth, it lacks that which the picture of marriage provides by helping us understand that core of our existence, our new life, is now a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Without a doubt, there are sometimes things that Jesus will completely and radically deliver us from, while there are other things that He leads us through a process of dying to self.  One of my former pastors was an alcoholic before he was born again.  Immediately after being saved, he was freed from that addiction.  But there are other people for which such radical and immediate deliverance does not occur.  Rather, through the process of learning who God is and who they are in Christ, God delivers them from their bondage.

And the same is true in marriage.  There are those of us who just have not integrated some the parameters of the new relationship, but we have a mate who is more than willing to help us see our errors and failures in our understanding of the relationship.  And through grace - that being their willingness to show us our errors and our response of changing our behaviors - we're able to grow in our relationship with our spouse.

So the next time your considering what it means to be a new creature, consider the marriage relationship and what exactly it means. Scripture encourages us to "not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that {we} may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."  The renewing of the mind is a process, it is a journey of relationship with God that we must choose to participate in.

1 comment:

CSI said...

Dear Servant of Christ Our Lord,Precious New year Greetings to you in Jesus Our Lord.

I have read your writings , they are wonderful.

I am a Pastor from India.

If it is God's will, Please Pray for me and for Our Ministries.

If you any Directions from God, Please Contact me in Christ Our Only Master.

In His Love

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