“…put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” —Ephesians 4:24
A couple years ago, Jade and I were invited to a wedding being held outside in September. September in this area seems to have more than its fair share of beautiful, pleasant days. This particular early September day was beautiful, but also quite hot. The prospect of attending a wedding outside on a hot day led to some (attempted) negotiating on my part to figure out just how casually I could dress and have it still be appropriate for a wedding. In the end, I think I avoided needing to wear a suit jacket. But the tie, the long sleeved shirt, the long pants, the closed toed shoes—those were all ruled mandatory. Fair enough.
We’ve probably all experienced the awkwardness of being overdressed or underdressed for a social event. Usually it’s not as dramatic as it appears in a movie or TV show, but there is something that throws us off about not looking like we belong where we are. And, conversely, there’s some truth to the idea that feeling like we “look the part” helps us to relax and bring our best selves to a situation.
In his letter to the Ephesian Christians, the apostle Paul picked up on this idea. Paul used the metaphor of clothing to describe taking off the “old self” and putting on the “new self.” This isn’t about physical appearance. There’s no uniform or single way to dress for followers of Jesus. Rather, it’s about what happens inside (in our minds) and what happens outside (in our words and actions). Paul recognized that there are patterns of thought, words, and actions that no longer make any sense once we’ve been told about Jesus.
Once we know about Jesus, the old way of grasping whatever we can get our hands on doesn’t make any sense. The new self lives simply, with openness and generosity.
Once we know about Jesus, the old way of fear and anxiety over the future doesn’t make any sense. The new self looks forward with hope, because the future rests in the Father’s hands.
Once we know about Jesus, the old way of fighting back every time we’re wronged doesn’t make any sense. The new self is formed by the same mind that Jesus had when he suffered for sinners and forgave his executioners.
For so many of us, the old self is like an old outfit that we keep in our closet and try on every once in a while. It’s not a comfortable outfit. To be honest, it never really worked for us. But it’s familiar and hard to get rid of. But if it wasn’t any good for us before, it’s even worse for us now. Why? Because now we have new and better clothing, clothing that brings out our unique beauty, that fits us perfectly, that feels like it was made just for us.
God has made you with purpose. God has made you to be you. God has given you the gift of the new self. So put away the old self, the old clothes that never really worked for you. And put on the new self, created to be like your Father in heaven.