How do you overcome a bad habit, a sinful struggle? It’s difficult, right? It can feel like entering a boxing ring, doing battle every day, often losing. Does that resonate with you?
There is hope and there is help!
In our five-part study of Colossians 3:5-11, Paul says in verse 7 that Christians had an old life, fixated on and participating in deviant sexuality, lust, greed, and acquiring possessions. In their old way of life, Christians indulged in all that.
Christian, that’s not you anymore! You are not a part of that old way, and so therefore, look at verse 8. He has another list for us. In verse 5 he commanded us to put the items on that list to death. Now in verse 8 he says something similar, “get rid of” everything on this new list. What’s on this new list?
First, anger or fury (which is the basic form of anger), then intense anger (a word that can include passionate outbursts), then hateful feelings (a word that has the possible implication of desiring to harm others), and finally blaspheming (reviling, defaming and wanting to injure a person’s reputation). Get rid of all of it!
At its core, anger is a warning sign, basically a feeling flashing in our hearts and minds, “Warning, warning, someone is defying you,” or “Someone is doing something wrong, there is an injustice here.” If that was all anger did, just a warning, it would be a really good thing. Frankly, we can learn to control our anger, so that it fuels justice. If we allow love to have control over our anger, anger can do a whole lot of good. The problem is that anger is a powerful emotion that often gets out of control, sometimes seemingly taking control of us, leading us to do damage, verbally, physically, and otherwise.
So there is righteous anger and unrighteous anger. Paul here is talking about evil anger, the kind that does damage. We should get rid of it.
In the last word in the list in verse 8, Paul says we should get rid of filthy language, which is defined as “obscene, shameful speech involving culturally disapproved themes—‘vulgar speech, obscene speech, dirty talk’.” (Louw & Nida)
I don’t know where to draw the line on a lot of this. Is it dirty jokes? Could be. How dirty? Who gets to define this? Is it cursing? Could be. There are in our culture numerous curse words that are generally considered to be inappropriate. But who gets to decide that?
Paul doesn’t want us to set up a new law book for Christian speech. Instead, he is giving a principle, get rid of filthy language from your life. Again, this comes down to our heart. Filthy talk that is obscene will be talk that is degrading to another. That is not loving the other, which is what we are called to do.
As he continues, he is still focusing on the words we use. Look at verse 9, “Do not lie.” This is another imperative, a command. We Christians are to speak truth. We don’t lie about ourselves, about our accomplishments, about what we know, about what we see. We are committed to the truth, even when it hurts, even when it puts us at a disadvantage or a bad light.
We Christians are people who are radically committed to the truth, and notice how Paul specifically mentions, “to each other.” We tell the truth to each other in the church family.
Why is this so important? Because, as Paul continues, we have taken off the old self. The word for “take off” that Paul uses in verse 9 is vivid. It is a tearing off, or stripping off of the old man, the old woman, the old person, and its practices.
Now do you see how Paul is starting to talk about clothes? It’s like he depicting a forceful tearing off of or stripping down from the old dirty clothes. But Paul is not just clothes. We know that. He is speaking figuratively. He is also not just speaking outwardly. We could think outwardly when we read Paul’s words because clothing is outside us. Notice how Paul is more intimate than that. Paul envisions an act of tearing off something that is a part of who we are, our old self. He writes that this tearing off, this stripping down, happened in the past. That old self, that sin nature, that earthly way of thinking is gone. Remember verse 3 earlier in the chapter: “You died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
Those who are in Christ are new persons! Praise the Lord!
If we are so new, then why do we often still struggle with the old ways? Check back in to the next post as we’ll talk about how to address that in our lives.