Eugene Peterson’s book Eat this Book teaches us to chew on a passage of scripture, digest it, and then put it to use in practical ways. Our Christian fathers and mothers called this process Lectio Divina. This passage from Colossians 3 tells us how to dress for the life of a Christ-follower.
Colossians 3: 1 – 14 (MSG)
“Be content with obscurity, like Christ. And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God. It’s because of this kind of thing that God is about to explode in anger. It wasn’t long ago that you were doing all that stuff and not knowing any better. But you know better now, so make sure it’s all gone for good: bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk.
Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire. Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ.
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.”
In this passage, Paul reminds us that Christ-followers need to put on new clothes, not because of fear of losing our salvation, but because these are the only clothes fit for children of the king. Since we are Christ-inhabited and live in the strong and unshakable kingdom of God. we are to be stripped of our old filthy rags, washed clean, and then fitted for a new wardrobe.
Once we meet Christ, our way of seeing is transformed by divine grace, and this renewal of our minds results in a new sense of being and a new capacity for doing. In fact, Paul teaches that God’s grace works within the community to produce a distinctively virtuous life.
♥ After you finish dressing each morning, take another moment to look into the mirror and imagine putting on the virtues of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. As you interact with people during the day, make use of your new clothing. When you fall back into your old habits (telling lies, being anxious, judging others, striking out in anger), remember you are wearing your new clothes. Change your thinking and then change your behavior!
♥ What happens if we walk around in our pre-Jesus “clothing,” even as we claim to follow Jesus? What happens to a church if members not only refuse to get rid of their old ill-fitting clothes but actually parade around in them. James Bryan Smith says: “We put on anger in order to manage others; we put on lust in order to feel intimacy; we put on deception in order to get what we want.” Think about a fashion show at your church. Would you see more people in their old clothing or in their new clothing? What can you do to encourage church members to get rid of their “old clothing” and try living their lives in the light of Christ.
MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT
“New clothes fit for the new creation. We can only put these on because of what God in Christ, has done. Our life in Christ makes compassion kindness, humility, gentleness and patience possible. But mark this: we have to put them on; God will not put them on for us. Apprenticeship to Jesus always involves our effort. So this day we are called to put on these virtues. The world does not need to be impressed by our dress, but it is very much in need of genuine compassion, kindness humility, gentleness and patience. They are rarely seen and are the most beautiful attire anyone can wear” (James Bryan Smith in Hidden in Christ, Living as God’s Beloved).