When Isabelle and Stephanie were toddlers, they loved playing dresses. They would change dresses every five minutes as they played. Sometimes they were Ariel, and the next time they were Belle or Pocahontas, and some other times they were the Powerpuff Girls. My wife Daniele and I cherished those fun moments with the girls as they were growing up.
Paul, the Apostle, encourages our brothers and sisters at Colossae to clothe themselves with Christ, that is, to put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Col 3:12). Paul is talking about being transformed into Christ’s likeness every day as we take on Christ’s character and sacrificial life to bless others. But in order to “put on Christ,” we need to take off the “old self” first. It is like changing clothes - first you have to take off the clothes you are wearing. You cannot simply pile up clothes on top of the others already on your body! That would not look good and it would be very uncomfortable.
We take off the old self by putting to death whatever belongs to our earthly nature (Col 3:5a). Take racism, for instance. We are all racist to a certain degree. We can be so racist and not realize we are being racist. And, to be honest, perhaps we may be so comfortable benefiting from our position of privilege that we do not want to bother ourselves as to pay attention to how we see and treat other people.
How do we take off the old self when it comes to racism? A good start is to seek to understand what “systemic racism” and “social equity” mean and have honest and fierce conversations about those topics. Social equity goes beyond skin color. It touches upon Cultures within Cultures and how we treat each other as human beings in society day in and day out.
Isabelle and Stephanie were just having lots of fun while playing dresses as toddlers. But in their minds, for that short period of time, they became the princesses embodied in those dresses. Likewise, Paul is commanding us to become one with the new Creation we find in Christ, to put on kindness, compassion, humility, gentleness, to be people of the Resurrection and become agents of Peace on Earth.
Grace and Peace!