What This Former Pig Needs

Todd Stiles   -  

Try harder. Those are the central words of religious people. It’s their mantra. After all, it’s the best way to become a better you.

Trust Jesus. That’s the core belief of God’s people. It’s their lifeline. After all, it’s the only way to become a different you.

Quite bluntly, trying harder has worn me out. I’m done with “better.”

However, becoming better does have an initial comfortable appeal to it, doesn’t it? No one has to feel really badly about their past, because in a better world we just do what we always did, only more positively. More polished. Less offensive. In the environment of better, no one was wrong, just misguided. There aren’t sinful actions or wicked habits; only mistakes and unrealized intentions. Quite frankly, better is code for upgrade. Improved.

But upgrades and improvements don’t deal with the deep down, inside issues. Improvements simply touch up the paint or customize the body style. They just keep the image intact. What’s needed is something new. Something not like the former. Yes, something different.

Different is to better what God is to man; what spiritual is to physical. It is something “wholly another.” In fact, the root understanding of holiness in the Old Testament contains the idea of different and set apart. When God said to the Israelites on at least six occasions, “I am holy,” he was communicating he was of another kind. Different. Not just an upgrade of them, or a better and more sophisticated human. Not at all! God was in no uncertain terms indicating he was wholly—and holy—another kind than them.

So when Peter, in his letter to scattered believers north of Jerusalem, exhorted them with this same Old Testament quote, “Be holy, for I [God] am holy,” he was calling, under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, for more than human resolve to “turn over a new leaf.” He was urging them, and I believe us as well, to pursue life from a wholly—and holy—different source: God’s.

Conversely, Peter likens trying harder to washing a pig on the outside with the hopes that this will really clean him up on the inside (2 Peter 2:22). How frustrating! You get the ol’ hog nice and tidy, only to discover an hour later that he’s right back in his favorite, sloppy hole. Why? Because cleaning up the outside doesn’t change the inside. You can wash a pig all day, but it won’t do a single thing to affect his appetites. No matter how much better you think he looks, he is really no different. He’ll be back in the mud in no time.

That’s why I choose different. Better just seems so futile; a waste of time and energy. But different? It seems lasting. Real. Deep. Just what this former pig needs.

Pastor Todd