As a friend of mine says, “A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.”
Nevertheless, I’m going to make a New Year’s resolution on this first week of the new decade. I’m going to take the Apostle Paul’s advice and resolve to wear new clothes.
In his letter to the Christians in the ancient Turkish city of Colossae, Paul wrote, “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience.”
Paul uses the metaphor of putting on new clothes to describe how we can change our lives for the better in most of his letters.
For Paul, the image of the clothes you wore would have been revelatory of your core identity. He’s not talking to the Colossians in this passage about slipping on a costume to play a fictitious role. He’s telling them how to change their lives. All of the positive attributes that Paul mentions here — “compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience” — are traits that he elsewhere in his writings ascribes to God or to Jesus. Paul understands that by consciously adopting these attitudes, they will slowly become our natural response to others.
Paul points to the love that we receive from God as being key to our change. Since, as Paul’s colleague John wrote, “God loved the whole world so much…,” we can all be assured that God loves us. When we begin to take seriously that we are loved by God, then we begin to value ourselves and when we can value ourselves, then we can value others and treat them with compassion and kindness.
When we really accept that we are loved, it’s a little like a scene from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” — when Linus leads the gang in “dressing up” the little Christmas tree with Snoopy’s ornaments. As the formerly forlorn little tree is revealed in all its new glory, Linus says, “I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.” When we feel loved, we light up!
So I am resolving this New Year to allow myself to feel loved and to put on those new clothes Paul writes about to be able to better show love to others. I hope many of you will join me in pointing our community toward compassion, kindness and patience.
The Rev. M. Christopher Boyer is pastor of Good Shepherd Baptist Church in Lynnwood.