One of my 2-year-old son’s favorite books is The Hungry Caterpillar. Are you familiar with this cute book? The book follows a very hungry caterpillar on his journey to becoming a beautiful butterfly. Along the way the caterpillar eats way too much junk food and becomes very full before going into his cocoon to transform into a butterfly. The colors in the book are vibrant and there are intentional holes in the pages representing where the caterpillar eats through each item of food. I highly recommend the book 😉
The most common example of a picture of transformation is that of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. The butterfly was once a lowly caterpillar, a simple worm. The worm could only crawl, and could not fly, it was not beautiful. It goes into a cocoon—a chrysalis (the root word is Christ).
Did you know that at one point in the process of transformation the worm actually completely dissolves itself into goo? The actual essence and substance of the caterpillar, no longer exists. It no longer can be called a caterpillar, because the caterpillar is no more.
When the time is right, the butterfly emerges and it is completely transformed. The old is gone, the new has arrived.
So often, especially in Christian circles, we hear the mantra, “I’m just a sinner saved by grace.”
When I hear a Christian say, “I’m just a sinner saved by grace” I think that makes about as much sense as a butterfly saying, “I’m just a worm with wings. “
So, why as beautifully transformed “butterflies” do we still often act like lowly worms?
As Christians, having truly accepted Jesus as Lord and strive to follow him daily—we live in conflict. We know that sin is wrong and would probably never say, “I’m willfully intending to sin today.” And yet, we find ourselves sinning time and time again. Perhaps not in the so-called big ways, but with regularity, in small ones—white lies, coveting, excessive worry, judging others. The truth is we are not as we ought to be.
One of Martin Luther’s famous slogan’s from the Reformation was, “simul Justus et peccator,’ which means “simultaneously righteous and a sinner.” This was Luther’s way of arguing against the idea that our works merit our salvation. We are saved, justified, and reconciled to God—and at the same time we are sinners.
Though the idea that Christians are sinners seem true and has been articulated by theologians past and present, I fear we spend far too much time emphasizing our life in the past!
For, what could be more frustrating than being a Christian who thinks himself or herself primarily a self-centered sinner, yet whose purpose in life is to produce God-centered holiness? How would living like that even be possible?
In Christ, we are children of God, inhabitants of eternity bought by the blood of Christ and infused with God’s power and presence—yet we often live these sad, fearful, defeated lives.
Instead of the narrative, “I am just a sinner,” we must replace the narrative with, “In Christ, I am no longer defined by sin. I have been reconciled. Sin has been defeated.” I have been MADE NEW!
2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ—there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see everything has become new!”
The butterfly is the closest picture we have to understanding true transformation. What other example do we have where the actual essence/substance of a being is radically changed into something new?
In Christ, we have been raised up with Jesus to new life. We have been given a new identity—one in which Christ dwells!
One of my favorite stories about transformation is about a man named John of Kronstadt. He was a 19th century Russian Orthodox priest at a time when alcohol abuse was rampant. None of the priests ventured out of the churches to help the people
John, compelled by love, went out to the streets. People said he would lift the hung-over, foul-smelling people from the gutter, cradle them in his arms and say to them, “This is beneath your dignity. You were meant to house the fullness of God.”
I love that phrase, “You were meant to house the fullness of God.” This describes both you and me.
Are you living your life like a beautifully transformed butterfly, or a worm with wings?