"And he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. Wherefore, henceforth live we no more after the flesh; yea, though we once lived after the flesh, yet since we have known Christ, now henceforth live we no more after the flesh. Therefore if any man live in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new…”
— 2 Corinthians 5:15-17
When I was in elementary school, the digital age was still well into the future. Multi-media was a 16mm reel-to-reel film projector. I remember learning how to thread the film through the projector and having the occasional privilege of running it for a class. I will never forget its iconic sound as the film made its journey from one reel to the other. Of the many films we watched, one that always captured my attention was the metamorphosis of the Monarch butterfly. It was fascinating to watch how an egg laid on a milkweed plant became a caterpillar (larva) that would feed on the milkweed, attach itself to the underside of a leaf, split its skin turning it into a chrysalis that would become translucent so that you could begin to see the colors of the Monarch coming to life and then, of course, the beautiful and magnificent emergence of the butterfly itself – completely new and different – with not even a hint of the ugly worm it once was being evident. As a youngster I remember walking through fields looking at the underside of milkweed plant leaves hoping to find a chrysalis that I could put in jar and watch its metamorphosis. Though milkweed and the Monarch are scarce today, I still look if I see one.
Has God sown something into this wonderment of His creation that is a lesson for us? What does Paul mean when he says that if we live in Christ, we become new creatures? Are we ugly worms that need to go through a metamorphosis to become something new and beautiful?
January is always a time of reflection. As the calendar turns from one year to the next, we naturally look back, often with a critical eye and we look forward with new resolve and anticipation. Reflecting and examining are important. Life gives many opportunities for our true nature to be exposed so that we can clearly see if we are becoming what God has designed and created us to be – “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” (Eph 2:10)
Through metamorphosis, the Monarch becomes what God designed it to become. It has no choice. God has sown within its creation and set in motion all that is necessary for it to become a beautiful butterfly. We too are part of God’s created order and God has designed each of us to fully bear His glorious image. “And I, God, created man in mine own image, in the image of mine Only Begotten created I him; male and female created I them.” (Gen 1:29) But because God gave man the ability to choose, sin entered in and God’s intended image in us was marred. “… by the transgression of these holy laws, man became sensual and devilish, and became fallen man.” (Sec 17:4c)
Even worse our corrupted nature prefers images other than God’s -- “every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol.” (Sec 1:3e) So, while God intended each of us to be born fully in His image, we come into the world as ugly worms. It’s not our earthly tabernacle that bears the ugliness, but our nature.
Reflection invariably always seems to draw comparison. As we reflect and examine who we are and what we’ve become our tendency is to compare ourselves with standards that do not shed full light on our condition. As we reflect, we should remember that only Jesus who is the “first born of every creature” bears the perfect “image of the invisible God.” (Col 1:15) Alma frames up the perfect reflective question, “I say unto you, Can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances?” (Alma 3:37)
Are we even capable of living “no more after the flesh?” That seems like a pretty tall order. Are we capable of re-creating His image in our countenances (nature)? The answer is no. If it were so, we would not need God. We would not need a plan of redemption. We would not need His Son or the Holy Spirit. In order for us to be transformed God must sow within us the power to do so. Because Jesus died for us, we have the opportunity to choose to bind ourselves to that power through baptism. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed [metamorphoo in Greek] into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor 3:18)
What God teaches us with the Monarch is that transformation is possible. I could watch that 16mm film again and again. It is miraculous and beautiful. Marvelous to behold. With God’s help, ugly worms can become beautiful butterflies and with God’s help we can be transformed into His image. This has always been God’s design and will for us. Paul says it beautifully, “And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed [metamorphoo in Greek] by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God is.” (Rom 12:2)
I hope I haven’t over-stretched the analogy of the metamorphosis of the Monarch. The Monarch goes through a physical transformation. Our transformation is spiritual and far more glorious and beautiful to see as God moves in our lives to make us into His image.
Reflect and examine.
Choose life in Christ.
Bear His image.