Colossians 3: 1-4:1
Dearly loved people of God,
We turned a corner in this letter. In the preceding chapter, Paul and Timothy describe how circumcision and baptism are a sign and seal of how our sin and guilt have been put off through Jesus’ sacrifice. Now, they describe
How to behave as people who have had sin stripped away.
They focus on 2:
Isn’t that curious? God’s Word gives equal weight here to the behaviour of our bodies and the behaviour of our mouths.
Let’s linger here a second so it can sink in. I don’t know about your experience with church or Christians, but I think we get more anxious about sexuality than about words. Yet God’s Word deals with them on the same level. That should challenge the way we discuss sin.
Both are addressed in the 2nd paragraph we read. It begins:
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature.
whatever belongs to your earthly nature.
Put to death; crucify whatever belongs to your earthly nature.
That includes a lot of earthy behaviours:
sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
and greed, which is idolatry.
Most people find these behaviours revolting.
Huge consequences followed the allegations last week
against MPP Jim Wilson regarding sexual misconduct
and MP Tony Clement’s confession that he’s been sending sexually explicit pictures and video to young women.
Sexting isn’t just thing among young people. These politicians are only 2 in a long string. I doubt they’ll be the last.
This is the behaviour God’s Word tells us to put to death in ourselves. It’s not just politicians. It’s not just dirty old men.
There’s not one person who’s gone through puberty who has not committed some sexual sin. Sadly, exposure to this stuff can start before puberty. Wherever we find such sins in ourselves, it needs to be put to death.
Similar language is used in vs. 8
But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these:
of all such things as these:
The NIV is accurate. But it loses a layer of meaning in translation. The Greek “rid yourself” can also be understood as “put off.” We found the same language in . “The flesh” or “the desires of the flesh” were “put off” in circumcision and in baptism. That points to how to rid yourself of these behaviours – they get nailed to the cross.
Our sin was crucified with Christ. Since we’ve been raised with Christ, these behaviours need to be put off:
anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
and filthy language from your lips.
I’m reminded of Isaiah the prophet. When he entered the presence of God, it was the filthy language from his lips that weighed most heavily on his conscience:
Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
Guilt from unclean lips causes us problems too. No less than sexual sins, filthy language make us unclean and guilty before the Lord. Paul and Timothy don’t pull any punches:
Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.
That’s uncomfortable. All of us share in this guilt. All are under the death penalty.
But, because of God’s great love, he has come to rescue us. God the Father sent God the Son into their creation. We celebrate Jesus’ birth each year at Christmas: the Saviour came into the world! He came, he suffered, he conquered sin by nailing it on the cross.
Then we come to the hinge of the whole passage:
Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
So, 3 days after dying on the cross, Jesus rose from the grave. Because of God’s great love for us, we are raised with Christ to a life of holiness. God declares believers holy. In rising with Christ, we put on Jesus’ righteousness and all his virtues. It’s the opposite of putting off the old self. We put on Jesus. In The Message, Eugene Peterson paraphrases it this way:
So, chosen by God for this new life of love,
dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline.
Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.
And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
Our response to being rescued is to dress in righteousness like our rescuer.
Imagine a 5 yr old girl be-bopping around in a pool. She loses track of where she ought to be and gets into water over her head. In danger and in panic, she can’t get to safety.
But her 16 yr old neighbour in a blue bathing suit notices. She scoops the smaller girl up and tows her to safety. More than that, she cuddles her until she calms down. Then the older girl teaches the younger one how to do the dead man’s float.
Don’t you think that 16 yr old has just become the coolest person in the world? The 5 yr old looks up to her. She wants to be like her when she grows up, starting now: she wants a blue bathing suit. She wants her hair done in that cool, French braid – so they can be twins!
Isn’t that the way things go?
Jesus Christ has rescued us from certain death. He is the coolest person in the world! He teaches us how to live safely in a dangerous world and Jesus invites us to put on the same righteousness that he always wears.
Don’t think for a minute that this is simple. Righteousness isn’t wimpy; it’s hard work.
Compassion and kindness
are more than pity.
Once you recognize a need, you’ve got to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty.
If you’re kind and compassionate and you see someone you know has their car stuck in a ditch, you cannot just honk and wave as you drive past. You don’t just take a picture to post on social media and then drive away. What would you do?
isn’t pretending you’re not good at anything. A humble person takes delight in doing things well. They take as much in a good finished product whether it’s their work or the work of someone else. No more; no less.
comes from strength. When you’re small and helpless, you have no concept of being gentle with anyone or anything. But once you’re big enough to recognize that an animal or a person is weak or injured or vulnerable, then you’re big enough to be gentle with the cute lamb, gentle with the injured person, gentle with the tiny baby.
is hard. We talked about it this summer. To forgive as the Lord forgave you” calls us to dig deeply into the joy, the peace, the grace that we received when God forgave us, and then forgive someone who offended us. Someone we’re angry at. Someone we have good reason to be hopping mad at. We forgive as God forgave us. Extending forgiveness to people who don’t deserve it takes a miracle – the kind of miracle we received when Jesus shouldered our cross and nailed our sin to it.
This is the life God has rescued us to enjoy. You have take off sinful behaviour like casual sex and casual talk. And you have put on your Jesus-like love for God and neighbour.