These two verses have been the inspiration for a wide variety of experiences within the Christian culture… from a heavy metal band, to cheesy t-shirts, bumper stickers, and as far as judgement and separation of our “body”.
But, what if we have been reading this how we are told it should be read, rather than how it actually reads?
Before I start… I don’t think that I have all of a sudden figured out a sliver of scripture that all other Christians have misunderstood, misused, or misinterpreted. However, I do believe that there is a truth within this set of words that we often look past because it is what we have been taught.
Well, off I go!
… brothers, by the mercies of God, present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Often, I have looked at this particular scripture to say, “because God had mercy on you, kill every piece of your life that resembles the ‘old self’ so that you may be accepted by God, which will then be an act of worship.”
Unfortunately, I didn’t come to those understandings and conclusions on my own… it never felt quite right to read it that way or have it taught to me that way, but, when a leader speaks, you’re supposed to listen. But, what if it has been translated to us in a way that brings much more death than it does life?! My previous understanding of this scripture says that who I am isn’t good enough to be accepted by God so I should re-create myself in order to worship Him…
The Father created me and you… and as the saying goes, ‘your greatest strength is often your greatest weakness’, which means, the attributes that lead you in your sin will likely be the attributes that lead you in the God glorifying influence you can have in the lives of those around you. Basically, rather than discarding yourself in order to look like a “church goer”, you should embrace yourself and lay that person at the foot of the cross in full submission to the Fathers work and pursuit of Christ-likeness.
For Example: If you love to go out and be social, network with people, dance, or whatever, do it… because you love it, and God created you, which means He knows that you love those things! Don’t stop going out because at one point you weren’t mature enough to sacrifice your gifts to the will of God rather than the will of self.
Do not be conformed to [the patterns of] this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
And this verse I used to read this way… “don’t look like ‘the world’ because they are wicked and evil, but be transformed to look like the church, because they are good, acceptable and perfect”
I know… I know… this sounds so ignorant, but, if we’re honest, we have often read this verse this way or been taught this ideal as a truth. I can’t tell you how many times this verse has been used against me because I have tattoos, my ears lobes are 1 1/4″ and I don’t hide that I drink beer… All of which “look like the world” to so many within the walls of the church.
Again, what if we look at these words this way… The Father loves you! It’s because the Father loves you that we are encouraged [in this verse] to not seek our identity in fashion, addiction, sex, fame, money, etc… but by accepting our pure and true identity, which is being the most honest, pure and vulnerable version of ourselves [who God created and knows… not a doctrinal duplicate], then our identity will be transformed and continually evolving in its likeness to Christ, which will bring about a man/woman who is good, acceptable and perfect… in the eyes of the Father.
I hope this makes sense… even if you don’t agree.
Basically, turning around two verses that are often used to diminish the natural person that we are and replace that person for someone elses version of ourselves, means that God didn’t really know what He was doing when we created you, intimately in the depths of your mother’s womb, as David writes… If He knows the hairs on our heads [which is a common thing that Christians boast about, then He surely knows what personality traits, musical interests, and other characteristics He created you with.
Embrace yourself, in order to present a whole and pure existence to the Father… Because, the more like Christ you are, the more like yourself you will be!
P.S. I promise that I’m not a church-hater… I actually fully support and love the work of the local church, however, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I believe there aresome churches and pastors who manipulate their congregations into “submission” to the doctrinal statement, rather than to Christ.