“Put to death!”
That’s a pretty strong way to make one’s point, don’t you think?
Most of us don’t think of being in life-or-death situations all that often. There are exceptions, of course. Professions like police and military create more life-or-death situations than others, perhaps. Also, people struggling with illness or injury, or people in certain violent areas of the country or world think about their life or death, to be sure.
But how often do we think about our spiritual life as one of “life or death?” Paul puts it in those terms. In Colossians 2 and 3, he reminds those who are in Christ that they “have died with Christ” and have also been “raised with Christ.” Now here, he exhorts us “put to death” that which leads to death, while “clothing ourselves” with that which leads to life.
There are three essential sections to this passage: Old Self, No Self, and New Self.
- Old Self. Before one finds life in Christ, one’s earthly self is perhaps all that matters to them. The problem is that the earthly self has an insatiable appetite, which is why feeding it alone eventually reveals itself to be a futile exercise.
- No Self. Of course Paul doesn’t deny our existence or even our individuality. But his language in verse 11 is specific: “there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” The labels we inherit from our earthly cultures are made null and void in Christ.
- New Self. Therefore, we are able to live out Christ’s virtues (compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and love) freely, without fear and without the futile motivation of serving our own needs.
In other words, because Christ is all, and is in all, when we are poured out for others’ sake as he was, he fills us with the fullness of his own life (see Col. 2:9-10)!
- What aspects of your “old self” are you ready to “put to death.”
- What aspects of your “old self” would you rather not let go of?
- What labels do you carry? How does finding your identity in Christ set you free of those labels?
- Of the behaviors Paul lists in vv. 12-17, which do you find easy? Which do you find difficult? How can these more difficult virtues guide you in your prayer life?