264 dreary days have passed since Stephen Colbert’s final episode of The Colbert Report. But he’ll make his return on Tuesday night as the new host of The Late Show on CBS. He has some big shoes to fill as David Letterman left quite a legacy in that setting. But Colbert seems genuinely excited for the challenge, saying of the chance to follow one of his comedic heroes, “The only thing that felt like a promotion was to be offered to take over for Dave.”
Making the transition from right-wing blowhard, as his character on The Colbert Report has been described, to a more balanced and genuine form of himself has been liberating. However, it also required some comedic soul searching early on. As Colbert described, “At first, we said: ‘Let’s not take anything for granted. Let’s be willing to throw out everything from the old show.’ And what we’ve discovered is, oh, our sense of humor is our sense of humor.”
As Dave Itzkoff notes to the delight of many Colbert Report fans in his piece on the new late-night host, “The ‘Stephen Colbert‘ character who illuminated hypocrisy with a wink and a smirk is not too far removed from the man who will soon appear nightly outside of those quotation marks.”
As part of that process, Colbert and his team released a series of online videos over the last few months ranging from short, two-minute clips titled “Lunch with Stephen,” to promotions for the Global Citizen Festival, an event he is co-hosting on September 26th. The videos for the GCF and the response they generated among Colbert’s fans have already helped to persuade Norway to commit substantially more support to girl’s global education, and the event hopes to accomplish even greater philanthropic feats at the end of the month.
Whether those videos are representative of Colbert’s vision for the Late Show remains to be seen, but they probably give some indication of what audiences can expect. The timing of Colbert’s inaugural run as a late-night host is fortuitous as well with the 2016 presidential election beginning to heat up. His familiarity with political satire and comedy should help to set him apart from his late-night competitors. To that end, and to help differentiate himself from the partisan character he played on Comedy Central, Jeb Bush and Joe Biden will both be among the star-studded list of guests on his show this week. Only time will tell whether he can actually distance himself from that character enough to find the kind of broad success he and CBS are seeking, but the transition seems to be going well so far.
As Christians, we are called to undergo a similar transformation in Christ. The thing is, while we are new creations in Christ and the old has been replaced by the new (2 Corinthians 5:17), we don’t always live like it. Yes God has made us new, but we still have to choose to embrace that new identity and allow him to renew us in the image of his righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24). And, lest we think that transformation is completed at the moment of salvation, Jesus warned that living it out was a decision we would have to make daily (Luke 9:23).
So while your salvation in Christ is assured, your transformation into the kind of person that he created you to be is a process that will continue for the rest of your earthly life. But one of the great things about our God is that he offers abundant and limitless grace for those moments where we slip back into our old habits. Never forget though, such grace is not given to excuse our failings. Rather, it is given to help us get back on the right path. God is not and will not ever be content with letting us remain in that old self and we misunderstand the nature of his forgiveness when we act otherwise.
So how is your transformation going today? Are you living out the righteousness and holiness that should define your new identity in Christ or have you gone back to the patterns and pitfalls of your previous life? Wherever you may be along that path, know that God’s mercy is always available to those who truly seek it and that he longs to help you become the person he created you to be. Will you let him?