Being Better

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. … rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Colossians 3:1-5, 8, 12-14

If you’ve spent much time on social media, then you probably know there is an enormous amount of content available on self-improvement. Whether it’s cutting out the bad or adding in something good, you can find advice for almost any form of self-betterment of which you can think.

Occasionally, we might find a “life hack” that genuinely inspires us or makes one part of our life simpler. Yet, many times we might come away from social media feeling exhausted, guilty or anxious, as though our worst has been compared to the best of everyone else and found lacking. The world seems to say, “If you just do these things and try a bit harder, then you’ll be good enough, you’ll be worthy, you’ll be happy.”

Our secular culture says, “Be better,” with the subtext, “Strive to be better so that perhaps, through your own constant efforts, you can attain the goal of being the best ‘you’ you can be.” In other words, we must transform ourselves from the outside in.

In Paul’s letter to Colossae, he gives some advice on how to act as Christians in Chapter 3, with some “good” to do and some “bad” to cut out. Do Paul’s words just pile on like all those social media influencers? Isn’t he just giving us more to do? Yet, if we read Paul’s words in Chapter 3 carefully, we can recognize a key difference.

We could summarize his list of “dos and don’ts” as “be better,” but the subtext is entirely different: “in Christ, you have a new self, transformed by him, therefore, by his strength, do what matches that new self.” In other words, we are transformed in Christ, not by our actions.

The world says that becoming our best self is the end goal. The world says the way to get there is by striving with our own efforts. God says that becoming our best selves happens through being united with Jesus. God gives us a new end goal: to love God and to love our neighbor.

How do we do this? By setting our hearts and minds on Christ (Colossians 3:1, 2), by directing our focus and affections on the One who died to present us in God’s sight without blemish (Colossians 1:22).

We are chosen, holy and dearly loved by God (Colossians 3:12), and the actions we choose are both the garments we can joyfully put on that match our new identity and the love song we give back to God as He loves the world. 
The Rev. Naomi Sundara
Chaplain to the Preschool
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