“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”— Colossians 3:12-13
From all sides, the world shouts one thing: You are what you do. Your value, identity, and worth are determined by your ability to perform before others. Beauty, expertise, prestige, success, good behaviour, right-standing, influence, prominence, property, etc are the things we use to determine who we are.
Our success, or lack of, is foundational to how we see ourselves. We are what we do.
From the verses above, the temptation is to try to anchor our identity, value, worth, meaning, purpose, and ultimately, our salvation in the behavioural attributes that Paul lists, such as compassion, meekness, kindness, patience, humility, forbearing and being forgiving.
This is what we always do because this broken world we live in continues to preach to us that we are what we do.
Not the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Paul’s opening statement in the verses above is your true identity: “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved…” Before God, you are chosen, holy and beloved. It’s not about what you do for yourself, but what God in Jesus Christ has done for you.
You see, according to the Gospel, your identity and salvation are anchored in Jesus’s perfect performance on your behalf. It is because of that performance that you have been transferred from being a person of the world to God’s chosen one; from unholy to holy; and to one who is loved by God.
It is from this new identity that good works flow. In other words, the behavioural traits Paul lists in the verses above are produced by your new identity and right standing before God, not the other way round.
To put it differently, your identity as “God’s chosen one[s], holy and beloved” is the root from which the fruits (compassion, meekness, kindness, patience, humility, forbearing and forgiveness) flow. Obsessing with fruits (for example, kindness) will not make you more patient, rather, you will become obsessively impatient because the law can never inspire what it demands (Romans 8:3-4).
This is the Gospel: You are not what you do, you are what God in Jesus Christ has done for you—free of charge. It is only from what has been done for you that what you do grows.