Miss Rhode Island won last night’s “Miss USA” contest. Her support for transgendered contest participants drew loud applause from the crowd and is consistent with the pageant’s official position. Miss Ohio is also in the news for citing “Pretty Woman” as a positive depiction of women on screen. In the film, Julia Roberts plays a prostitute who eventually leaves her profession with a man who had hired her services for a week.
I am tempted to spend this morning’s essay voicing my frustration at the downward moral spiral of our culture, but my protests won’t change much. How can Jesus’ followers make a positive difference in a society that has lost its way?
Consider a story on today’s New York Times website that caught my eye: “32 innovations that will change your tomorrow.” One of them is called “the liar’s workout.” When amateur golfers were told, falsely, that a putter belonged to professional golfer Ben Curtis, they putted better than other golfers using the same club. In another study, cyclists were pitted against a computer-generated opponent moving at, supposedly, the exact speed the cyclist had achieved in an earlier time trial. In fact, the avatars were moving 2 percent faster; the human cyclists matched them, setting new speed levels.
When I read about “the liar’s workout,” I thought immediately of C. S. Lewis‘ suggestion that we should pretend to be like Jesus. The Model Prayer begins, “Our Father . . .” These words suggest that we are the sons and daughters of God. As Lewis says, “To put it bluntly, you are dressing up as Christ. If you like, you are pretending.”
To what end? “The moment you realize, ‘Here I am, dressing up as Christ,’ it is extremely likely that you will see at once some way in which at that very moment the pretense could be made less of a pretense and more of a reality. You will find several things going on in your mind which would not be going on there if you were really a son of God.” When we change accordingly, “the Christ himself, the Son of God who is man (just like you) and God (just like his Father) is actually at your side and is already at that moment beginning to turn your pretense into a reality” (Mere Christianity, chapter 29).
Why? Because this is God’s purpose for your life: “those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29). Everything God is doing in your life is a means to the end of making you like Jesus.
The more we are like Christ, “the light of the world” (John 9:5), the more we reflect his light to our dark culture (Matthew 5:14-16). If you were to be more like Jesus this morning, what would you change first?