Saturday, January 4, 2014

lessons from Colossians on the Christian life

I was reading part of the third chapter of Colossians this morning (verses 5-16). It struck me that in it St Paul gives us a pretty good outline of how a Christian should conduct themselves. 

First, there are the behaviours we are to avoid: 

Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. 
But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

Quite a long list there of things St Paul declares as inappropriate for the Christian! Next come the ways we ought to behave:

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 
Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.

Note that he calls love the central characteristic of Christian behaviour, but that St Paul doesn't see loving behaviour as excluding teaching and admonishing. How could it? Real love is to want what is good for the other; & for the Christian that begins with wanting the other person to go to heaven. That requires letting them know what they ought to do and pointing them when they go wrong. That's probably the hardest lesson for us all in this letter.

It only took a couple of minutes to read those few verses; if only it were that easy to take them to heart and live them out. But that, I'm afraid, takes most of us a lifetime.

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