Summary: Everything is transformed in our lives because of the cross of Christ. The old life is dead and gone. We are now living a new life.
Colossians 3:1-11 “New Life”
The tale of “The Ugly Duckling” begins, when a mother duck's eggs hatch. One of the little birds is perceived by the other birds and animals on the farm as a homely little creature and suffers much verbal and physical abuse from them. He wanders sadly from the barnyard and lives with wild ducks and geese until hunters slaughter the flocks. He finds a home with an old woman but her cat and hen tease him mercilessly and again he sets off on his own. He sees a flock of migrating wild swans; he is delighted and excited but he cannot join them for he is too young and cannot fly. Winter arrives. A farmer finds and carries the freezing little bird home, but the foundling is frightened by the farmer’s noisy children and flees the house. He spends a miserable winter alone in the outdoors mostly hiding in a cave on the lake that partly freezes over. When spring arrives a flock of swans descends on the now thawing lake. The ugly duckling, now having fully grown and matured cannot endure a life of solitude and hardship anymore and decides to throw himself at the flock of swans deciding that it is better to be killed by such beautiful birds than to live a life of ugliness and misery. He is shocked when the swans welcome and accept him, only to realize by looking at his reflection in the water that he has grown into one of them. The flock takes to the air and the ugly duckling spreads his beautiful large wings and takes flight with the rest of his new family.
If the writer to the Colossians had read this 1843 story by Hans Christian Andersen, I believe that he would have nodded his head and silently agreed that such was the plight of Christians. Christians thought they were ugly ducklings rather than regal swans, or in the words of the writer that they living their old earthly lives rather than experiencing their new heavenly lives.
The writer to the Colossians never talks about changing the situations and circumstances in which the Colossians live. He doesn’t talk about overthrowing the Roman Empire, or escaping to the mountains or deserts in order to live out their new lives as Christians. Instead, the writer focuses his attention on the inward change that has taken place in the lives of the Colossians.
We often fall into the trap of expecting the “good life” to happen when our situations change. We envision all of our problems being solved—if we ever win the lottery. We tell ourselves that things will be wonderful at work once we get a new boss. Parents dream of how good life will be once the kids sleep through the night—get out of diapers—get good grades in school—leave home—find a job. We trick ourselves into believing that happiness is one toy away.
It is true that we are to attempt change in our world—to strive for justice, equality, and peace. The Bible, though, never tells us that we are going to live in a world without strife, struggle, disappointment, or heartache. The abundant life doesn’t come from the absence of troubles and tribulations. Rather, the abundant life is experienced as we live as forgiven and loved children of God, and empowered disciples of Jesus Christ.
The personal struggle that we have, as Christians, is to open ourselves up to the changes the cross of Jesus has brought into our lives.
A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE
I can understand how difficult it is to change things in government and in the church when I confess how difficult it is to make lasting personal changes. I know several people who have had heart by-pass surgery and have been told to stop smoking and to eat a fat free diet. After a few months they are right back to smoking and snacking on potato chips. I don’t think any of us can be too harsh on our judgment of these people. I know how I’ve struggled with weight, exercise, devotional reading and prayer. Change isn’t easy. I believe that change starts, though, by seeing things differently.
When talking to a person who is struggling with depression, one is amazed at his or her perspective. He or she sees everything from warped perspective. Everything is bad. There is no good in their lives. For the person to begin to climb out of the pit of depression, it is necessary for them to begin to see their lives from a different perspective—to see themselves as swans and not ducks.
Marriages often go sour when the couple’s view of each other changes. The partner turns from someone who is loved and who possesses charm and beauty, to nags and distant personages. The marriage can only be saved it the couple’s perspective of each other changes.