‘To thine own self be true’ are oft-quoted words from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. But who am I? What is my true self? Sometimes I seem to be many selves. But maybe, as the Scriptures suggest, we have but two major selves that we should be concerned about. There is the old self, and there is the new self. The old self is the self that is basically self-centred – driven by desire. The new self is created after the likeness of God (Ephesians 4:23-24). That passage in The Letter to the Ephesians goes on to say that this sort of life is marked by honesty and integrity. It avoids both bitterness and hurtful words toward other people. It means reflecting God’s own self as revealed by Jesus, living in love as Christ loved us. (Ephesians 5:1) To which self are we going to be true? Being true to the old self means living lives that are basically selfish. Even religion is engaged in with selfish motives. It’s all about me, blessings for me and my family, heaven for me, success for my church, praise for good deeds, congratulations for attainment. The new self gives itself in service for God and for others, accepts the price of love, makes sacrifices for the good of the whole, cares for and encourages those who are in need, longs to see a world where everyone is appreciated and respected, where peace, integrity and cooperation flourish. In baptism, our new selves are affirmed, but it requires, on our part, cooperation with the Holy Spirit, the intentional putting away of our old selves and the renewal of our minds in the power of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:22) Then let us be true to that new self, the one that reflects the grace and love of God. It’s not easy. So much of our capitalist, consumer, individualistic, and hedonistic society is built on the understanding that people always act according to their old selves. It calls for humility and courage to be true to our own new selves, but that is our calling. That is our struggle.
- How do you describe yourself? What gives you your identity?
- What does a life created according to the likeness of God look like?
- Above, we have contrasted the old religious self with the new. What would this contrast look like if we applied it to some other area of life, say politics?
- How much of a struggle do you find it to live the new life signified in your baptism?