Some years ago we had a guest speaker at our church—Tim Coulombe, who happens to be the son of one of our pastors. He told a true story that illustrates a critical point that we Christians need to grasp.
Tim and his wife adopted a little girl named Tsion from Ethiopia, and went to pick her up. This little seven year old walked away from her orphanage with a small Ziplock bag containing the pictures and letters Tim and his family had sent her and the clothes on her back. Nothing more.
They went to the guest house where they were staying and where the Coulombes had a suitcase full of new clothes they’d bought for their new daughter, all just her size. Under the guidance of her new sister, Tsion bathed and shampooed her hair while Tim unpacked the new clothes and lay them out for her to choose from.
To the Coulombes’ shock, instead of picking out any of the new things, Tsion pulled on her old, tattered, dirty clothes. That’s all she knew, all she identified with as being hers.
What a picture of a Christian adopted by our Heavenly Father, laying out for us the new clothes He wants us to wear. Put aside all malice, Peter says, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all slander (see I Peter 2:1).
Put aside anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech, Paul says in Colossians (see 3:8).
These and other rags are our old clothes, the things God wants us to get rid of because He has brand new clothes for us to put on, beautiful things that will mark us as His children: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, love, unity, forgiveness.
See, for example, what Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus:
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph 4:1-3)
But here’s the reason why:
we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,
Because we’re no longer orphans, we can put on the new clothes God has for us:
in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Eph 4:22-24)
The question is, will we? From now on, I suspect I’ll think of Tsion when I read verses like these in Scripture. Her choice is my choice. Do I want to wear the new clothes provided for me by my Heavenly Father or the filthy rags of my self-righteousness and sin?
This post first appeared here in July 2012.