As we move toward Reformation Sunday, I was struck last night by some great conversation with the Highlander Lutherans, our new campus ministry at Radford University. Our Bible study, supplied by The Work of the People (check out their great work here), brought up this incredible distinction:
As we learn new things, we must also unlearn old things.
This is an incredibly simple yet profound concept, and one that we know from experience. As we learned more about the detrimental effects of things like smoking tobacco and working with asbestos, our society had to unlearn habits in social settings and unlearn standards of construction. As we learn about the complexities of adult relationships, we must unlearn the childish habits that guided our lives for so long. As we learn more about God, we must unlearn those false or hurtful assumptions about who God is and what God does.
This is the very core of reformation. We are being, quite literally, re-formed. As such, we must also unlearn those things that formed us in detrimental ways. We must unlearn our nasty habits and destructive approaches to people in order to develop good habits and healthy relationships. Reformation requires not only learning new things, but unlearning old things.
Now, of course, this doesn't mean unlearning everything. 2+2 still equals 4. We still have to pay taxes. God is still love. But how we apply those sorts of knowledge - what God calls us to do with that love - now that requires a lifetime of reformation.
As we walk toward the celebration of the Reformation, let us also remember that we still need reformed as well. We must learn things about God, and unlearn things that we once thought were true. We must learn how to live in the Kingdom, and unlearn things that deprive us of life abundant.
To live in the legacy of the Reformation, we must constantly learn and unlearn. We must constantly be re-formed.
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Simultaneously a sinner and a saint.