In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossians he encouraged the young Christians to set their hearts on Christ—on things above, and not on earthy things. He clearly explained what he meant by giving a list of the earthly things, “sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:3-6). Then Paul made an extraordinary statement, “You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 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” (Col 3:7-9).
I am completely struck with the words “But now you must rid yourself of all such things…” Just because these believers had placed their faith in Christ did not mean that all the negative stuff in their lives was miraculously swept away. There is no such thing as automatic spiritual growth. Paul underscored an important truth, which is that God has given us a free will that we exercise through the power of our individual choices. When Paul says to us, “You get rid of these things,” he is referring to something that will only happen if we make it happen. We choose to stop lying, we choose to stop stealing, we choose to stop losing control of our temper, we choose to stop slandering others, and we choose to stop using profanity. By the same token, we choose to put on the mature, appropriate behavior. We choose to tell the truth, we choose to be honest, and we choose to control our emotions and our tongues.
I love words because they are the vehicles of how we communicate with each other. One of my favorite words is magnanimous. It means to be big-hearted, which is the opposite of being petty and small. It means to be
We love to find excuses for the bad ways we treat others and how we misbehave, but the truth is that we chose to act that way. We will continue to act badly until we rid ourselves of those earthy things and choose to dress ourselves in ways that more resemble Christ.