Everyone in our family loves the beach. Thankfully, we live just a few blocks away and have the opportunity to go a lot. In fact, during the summer my boys will go surfing almost every day. They practically live in their board shorts wearing them to the beach, to school, hanging out with friends and even occasionally to bed!
I have to remind them that just because their shorts got wet in the ocean doesn’t mean they’re clean. In fact, there have been times when the salty stench on their shorts was unbearable!
Paul, writing to the church in Colossae, ties our identity in Christ to the type of clothing we should wear. No, Paul’s not giving us fashion advice. Nor is he advocating a certain style of dress. Let’s look at what he says to them starting in verse 8 of Chapter 3,
But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
Paul intimates to those who are following Christ they need to change their clothes. They must take off the smelly, stinky, dirty clothes of their “old self” and put on some fresh ones – clothes that reflect their new identity in Christ.
Paul doesn’t give this as a suggestion; he emphasizes the urgency by telling them to do this now. Don’t wait for a more convenient time or a better opportunity. Don’t justify the stink or try to cover it up by spraying yourself down with Febreeze (yup, I must admit I’ve done that on occasion).
Rid yourself of those behaviors – change your clothes! Don’t live like the people around you. Instead, put on a new outfit, a beautiful one purchased with the blood of Jesus as you strive to look more and more like him every day.
Paul continues with this thought and draws a conclusion in verse 12,
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12
“Chosen, holy and dearly loved.” Right now. As is. This is how God sees you. The real issue, for us then is this: are we living as if this is true?
Sometimes I’ve found it easier to believe other people are chosen, holy and dearly loved than to believe that’s how God sees me. We have all fallen short of perfection. We have all blown it. But, the good news is God continues to see you as the person He created you to be.
Your identity doesn’t come from the things you do or the people around you. It’s not earned or worked for. Instead, it’s a gift we receive with gratitude from a loving Father.
Paul is telling the Christians in Colossae their identity in Christ should reflect how they live and the “clothing” they wear. Their “clothing” should be consistent with their identity.
Our outer life is a reflection of our inward life. As a natural outflow of seeing ourselves as chosen, holy and dearly loved, we should “clothe ourselves” with compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
And just like we take off our dirty clothes and put clean ones on, we are to take off attitudes, actions and things inconsistent with this new identity and clothe ourselves with a holy lifestyle that honors God and accurately reflects who He is.
I love how the NIV Study Bible explains this passage in Colossians 3. It reads, Paul is essentially telling the believers “they are called upon to become in daily experience what they are in Christ.”1
When we allow God to shape our lives, we begin to see ourselves as the women He created us to be. This transformation not only affects our lives and how we see ourselves, but it also begins to influence the community of people around us. He begins to use you to display his love to a broken world!
Time to go shopping for a new wardrobe!
Think about it…
- What dirty clothes do you need to discard? What’s holding you back from getting rid of them and embracing your new identity in Christ?
- Do you see yourself as chosen, holy and dearly loved? Why or why not?
- Referring to verse 12, what “clothing” (compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience) comes easy for you? Which of these is a stretch?
1NIV Study Bible (Zondervan), notes from Colossians 3:1