A few summers ago, my son, Charlie, was up at bat in a high school baseball game when the pitcher lost control of one of his pitches, and it popped Charlie right in the torso just under his arm. You could tell it hurt, but Charlie just dropped his bat and took his base like it was nothing. He was following one of the unwritten rules of baseball—never let a pitcher think he hurt you even if he dots you with a fastball right to the ribs. As he ran down the baseline, his buddies in the dugout yelled: "That’s the way, Charlie. Wear it!"
In his letter to the Colossians, Paul encourages a small cadre of new Christians there to wear something too—something that could be called our identity in Christ. The words Paul suggests we wear are: holy, chosen, and beloved (Colossians 3:12). They're great words, but if you are like me, they might seem a little uncomfortable to put on. Holy, chosen, and beloved isn't always how we feel about ourselves. But I suppose if my son, Charlie, can wear something as uncomfortable as a fastball to the ribs, then perhaps we can wear these words, even if they're a little uncomfortable to us.
Let's start with the word chosen. In George Wiegel's superb biography of Pope John Paul II, Witness to Hope, he wrote about the Christian idea of chosen-ness. Being chosen, he wrote, as it was in the case of Pope John Paul II, can involve some strange detours, some long and twisting roads, the unexpected, and sometimes even the tragic, all of which point us to the disturbing truth that in the end, we're simply not in charge of our own lives. As Christ-followers, we're summoned to love our enemies, to cross the road Good Samaritan-like when we see others in need. This sort of call on our lives often puts us on a peculiar path, or at least it should. And what God knows, but we often forget, is that the strange journey this kind of chosen-ness puts us on, reliably turns out to be the elusive path on which true human flourishing is found. You're chosen for this sort of life. So put it on—wear it.
Next, Paul calls us to be holy. A few years ago, I took a genetic test. It turns out, I’m 72% British/Irish, 13% Northwestern European, 11% French/German, 2% Scandinavian, 1% Iberian, and 1% Finnish. I also learned I'm unlikely to be able to sing on pitch and am genetically inclined to have a slight aversion to cilantro. Interesting, right? Look, we can identify ourselves in all sorts of ways—by our heritage, by our gender, by the roles we take on, by appearance, by our achievements, by our economic status, by our failures, even by our sins. But God intends to get under all of that, insisting first and foremost that we identify ourselves, not by anything we've done or failed to do, but by what God has done for us in Christ. That is, we are to look in the mirror every morning, and as a matter of faithfulness, gratitude, obedience, and memory, define ourselves the way God does. In Christ. When God thinks of us, God sees us, but also sees Christ’s work, and therefore Christ’s reflection in us. Lean into this. You are holy. Put it on. Again, wear it.
Finally there is the word beloved. It’s not a word we run into a lot anymore. While "beloved" was absolutely rocking it in the 1700s and 1800s, it has lost serious market share in the last century or so. It's been relegated mostly to sonnets and cemetery headstones. But we need to bring it back because God uses it for us. What it means is not just that God loves us but calls us to beloved-ness—to congregate with one another, meeting with frequency, bonding over shared tasks together in a way that becomes a part of our identity. Beloved-ness is not something that's meant to be exclusionary or designed to set us ahead of everyone else. Rather it's to be a part of our identity, a garment to be worn that reminds us and urges us to expand the boundaries and our definition of "neighbor," calling us ever onward along a selfless path on which the spell of this world is broken. So put it on too. Beloved. Wear it.
God — Help me to put this identity on. To wear it—Chosen, Holy, and Beloved. Emblazon it indelibly across my life as I forge ahead. Amen.
— Greg Funderburk