Wednesday’s Words: Acting As If
Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24
Putting off the old nature and putting on a new one isn’t just putting on an outward show of piety. It’s more than just scratching the surface. Paul is telling his audience to be renewed in the spirit of their minds. He tells them to begin by distancing themselves from old, self-defeating habits. So if those “deceitful” longings are there, we don’t have to pretend they’re not, but we can stop acting on them—with God’s grace and the support he will provide if we are willing and receptive.
Temptations call to us, promising satisfaction if we give in. Sometimes it takes repeated painful consequences to convince us those desires really are deceitful. They don’t deliver what they promise—at least without a price: damaged relationships, loss of self-respect, ruined reputations, and more. Those more we linger around those habits, the louder they call. Putting off that old nature by avoiding the old haunts or behaviors that used to get us into trouble, gives our minds and hearts a chance to hear a different message than the same old, same old.
But what about putting on a new nature? Acting holy when we still have lingering thoughts and desires that are less than noble—isn’t that hypocritical? That depends. If we’re trying to impress others without the least interest in changing, we are being insincere. But if our minds and hearts are seeking a better way, practicing new behavior a great way to cooperate with God’s renewing grace. We may feel like a fraud the first or second time we try a new way of handling a situation. We might even be accused of it the first time we don’t respond in kind to a nasty comment; the first time we walk away instead of joining the gossip fest—especially if part of us is dying to hear the latest juicy tidbit; the first time we say no thanks to a drink, a cookie, a flirtation, or a pointless argument. Exercising freedom of choice instead of surrendering to the old habits is not being hypocritical.
St. Paul doesn’t say “wait until your lusts have disappeared.” He challenges us to do what we can: make the choice, take the action, move the muscles. That gives our minds to be renewed with healthier thoughts and interests. We exercise our free will by choosing to take actions that are in our best interest instead of being pushed around by our feelings or desires. We act as if.
Prayer: Lord, renew my mind and heart.
Reflection: What can you “put off” that pulls you in a negative direction? What actions can you replace it with?