Put Off by the Put On?
...that ye put off ... the old man ... and that ye put on the new man Ephesians 4:22,24
Check out the phrase "put on" in the dictionary and you'll find quite a few definitions referring to deceit, trickery, joshing, feigned behavior or pretension. Of course, we automatically adjust our perception so that a benign comment like, "Put on your shoes", simply means what it says, but we all know what mom or dad meant when they said, "I expect you to put on your best behavior!" Yeah, for a given time we were supposed to pretend that we always got along and were always composed, obedient and polite. It was hoped that - at least for the duration of the visitors' stay - our normal behavior would be put off and an ideal one put on. I can only tell you that my parents were often disappointed.
But no, I don't suspect any hint of pretension in Paul's statements to the Ephesians. I think, rather, that the historical, religious misapplication of his life-giving words influenced the very definitions now implied by the phrase. What I'm suggesting is that because many church-goers throughout history have seriously adapted the Biblical expression "put on" to define a religious pretentiousness it became a commonly used slang for fakery or kidding.
Maybe that's why so many can't shake the inference that the behavior mentioned in the Biblical record is little more than a facade slapped over the exterior of an old building, making it appear as something it is not. I mean, isn't that the implication behind the popular injunction, "Fake it till you make it"? Simply stated: The thing is not real until you make it real by a process of pretending it is real (which is taught in both Christian and non-Christian circles). But what if we have it all backward? Or doesn't it seem rather odd that a man who pushed honesty and demanded reality would scrap it all where it counts the most in matters of everyday living?
And no, I'm not oblivious to those fabricated distinctions forced into the new creation making it sound reasonable to assume that a new believer needs more simplicity than a mature one. Oh yeah, I've heard the criticism, "But Jim, not everybody knows as much as YOU do", more than once. Now, if the life we've received in Christ had anything whatsoever to do with a learned-after-the-manner-of-this-world knowledge (i.e. one measured by degrees) then the objection would be valid. But then such a Christianity would be worthless, wouldn't it?
Now, it may be that I am able to understand more Biblical information or other trains of thought better than some, but what does any of that have to do with the understanding of the miraculous? "That which is impossible to man" is still impossible to man! The life that has been raised from the dead is still out of reach by the mind of reason. Miraculous is still miraculous.
What I'm saying is that a better understanding of different forms of communication does not equate to a better understanding of God. If the mind of Christ - or the knowledge of God - has not been freely and equally given to ALL who are in Christ then we might as well chalk this whole Jesus-thing up as nothing more than the religion it appears to be. I don't know about you, but I've got more to do with my time than to waste it on a finite knowledge-based religion!
You see, because many teachers have attempted to make the miraculous resurrected life of Christ easier to understand they have only reinforced the same old bogus distinctions that break down spirituality into degrees, or levels, of achievement -- and then we read THAT back into the words of the Bible. Sheesh, don't we get it? We only think we can't understand Christ because of a lack of knowledge, and we only assume another can understand because he knows more than we do! If there is a true maturity in Christ it would be a stubborn holding to the miraculous revelation that all are equally alive in him. Immaturity, on the other hand, would show itself in falsely perceived estimations built upon inferiority vs. superiority, either by those who consider themselves inferior or by those who consider themselves superior.
So, what does all this have to do with putting-off and putting-on? Everything! For we have been duped into the insane idea that we're somehow supposed to remove something from ourselves and then to put something else on that really doesn't belong, in hopes that we'll simply get used to it. I ask again, what if it's the other way around?
Continued next time: Grave Clothes