|In 1984, the Hasbro company hit a consumer home run. |
They introduced a set of action figures called Transformers – vehicles, devices, and animals that could be reshaped into robots and then back again.
For Gen X kids, these toys were indisputably “more than meets the eye.”
After invading playrooms everywhere, the Transformers went global. They became the stars of their own comic book, their own TV series, and an animated movie that was actually quite good. Michael Bay then produced five live action films, none of which were nominated for Best Picture.
Along the way, the folks at Hasbro generated an intricate back story for the Transformers. They hail from a shiny metal planet called Cybertron. Two rival gangs have engaged in a never-ending rumble that has now spilled over to Earth.
There’s a bit of insider language in this narrative, but kids quickly figure it out. Mostly you just need to know two words: Autobots (the good guys) and Decepticons (their mortal enemies).
Bumblebee, pictured above, is one of the original Autobots. He is unswervingly loyal to humans, has his own Wikipedia page, and starred in a 2018 film that grossed almost half a billion dollars. Not bad for a robot who masquerades as a yellow and black Chevy muscle car.
When it comes to the transformation of human beings, the Bible also presents a bit of insider language.
Mostly you just need to know two Greek words: schema and morphe.
Schema, from which we get the word “schematic,” represents the outer appearance. Your schema changes every day. Your fingernails are just a little bit longer and your hair is just a little bit grayer than yesterday – unless you choose to clip your nails and color your hair.
Commercials are frequently direct appeals for schematic impression management. If you don’t like your body shape, you can purchase an exercise bike. Or join a diet program. If you’re uneasy about your smile, try whitening strips or dental implants. If you want to dazzle fellow motorists on curvy mountain roads, put yourself behind the wheel of a new car.
Most us experienced middle school and high school as an ongoing schematic trial by fire. Will you look cool, dress cool, and hang out with others who are cool, or will you refuse to play the game?
On the pages of Scripture, schema and its derivatives usually represent conformity to an external standard.
You also have another kind of form. You have a morphe. Your morphe represents your true identity, your inner self. Your schema may be in continual flux, but there’s something about you that is unmistakably the Real You – something that an old acquaintance will recognize when you bump into each other on the street, even after not seeing each other for decades.
Schematic change is inevitable and often superficial. But the transformation of one’s morphe – “metamorphosis” – is always a big deal.
Change from the inside-out represents our hope of rebirth, of becoming new people, of growing deeper in the character of Christ.
Schema and morphe come face to face in a famous Bible verse. “Do not conform [syschematizethe] to the pattern of this world, but be transformed [metamorphousthe] by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2) J.P. Phillips provided this memorable translation: “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-mold your minds from within.”
You can spend your life trying to look better, conforming to the crowd, aiming to please the people you presume are always watching and judging.
Or you can opt for metamorphosis and let God have at you – allowing the Spirit to renew your mind especially through ongoing engagement with his Word.
What’s at stake?
Our deepest hope is that our spiritual transformation will be more than meets the eye.