Colossians 3:1–14comment (0)
February 18, 2010
By Kenneth B.E. Roxburgh
Related Scripture: Colossians 3:1–14
Bible Studies for Life
Chair and Armstrong Professor of Religion, Department of Religion, Samford University
What’s on your mind?
Every user of the social-networking Web site Facebook is confronted with the question “What’s on your mind?” It’s a means of communicating between “friends” across the world, discussing all sorts of themes from the sublime to the ridiculous.
New Ways of Thinking (1–4)
Paul was convinced that the “mind matters” and we need to “set our mind/affections on things that are above … where Christ is.” It seems what Paul was talking about is a preoccupation with Christ Himself, who is “at the right hand of God.” It is when Christ is central and supreme in our thinking that the things of eternity take precedence over the fleeting issues of life in the world and influence how we live. The future hope we possess in our hearts motivates us to live differently. Paul reminded us that one day, “we will be revealed with Him in glory.” We will share in His eternal kingdom, enjoying all the benefits of His grace. Our destiny is bound up with His destiny, and His future glorification is one we will share. If this is so, then our thinking about how we live here and now must be radically transformed.
New Ways of Behaving (5–11)
Paul was aware of the daily realities of life. He spoke with absolute conviction that our future hope is secure. He urged us to deal with attitudes and actions that hinder the development of holiness in our lives. Paul began by listing two groups of five vices that hinder spiritual maturity. He began with sexual sins such as fornication, a broad term for sexual immorality. “Impurity” usually is associated with “porneia” as relevant in a society in which pornography is rampant. The next vice, “passion” or “lust,” has the idea of uncontrolled sexual appetite and is linked with “covetousness,” which is greed to satisfy a wrong desire for people or things that do not belong to us. Paul linked this with “idolatry,” or elevating someone or something to the place in our lives that Christ alone should have.
The second list in verses 8–11 emphasizes sins of speech such as slander, abuse and lying. At the heart of all these actions, there is “anger, wrath and malice.” There is such a thing as righteous anger. Justice requires that we be angry when we see sin oppressing the poor and spoiling God’s world. However, anger and uncontrolled rage can often stimulate sin rather than holiness. The vices listed here are all destructive of relationships and are particularly relevant in the life of the Church, where we are called to love one another and forgive one another as God in Christ has forgiven us. Lying not only hinders relationships but also when lies are discovered, they undermine trust and poison friendships and the family of God. That’s why Paul ended this section by reminding the Colossian church it had been united in Christ and the barriers of society had been torn down — racial, ethnic, social — so that “Christ may be all and in all!”
New Ways of Relating (12–14)
Paul used the metaphor of putting on a new set of clothes and spoke about clothing ourselves with “compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience.” Again Paul had a series of five words to describe the positive life of love that ought to characterize the family of God. He began by speaking about the need for a heartfelt attitude of sympathy for the needs of others in compassion and kindness. Humility is the same word that is used in Philippians 2 for the attitude of our Lord who humbled Himself and became obedient to death, a disposition Paul saw as selfless commitment to the needs of others. Closely associated with humility is meekness or gentleness, which is always considerate of the thoughts and feelings of other people and manifests itself in patience, making allowances for the faults and failings of fellow members of the church, being willing to tolerate people’s mistakes.
At the heart of such a life of love is the grace of forgiveness and allowing love to bind together the body of Christ in perfect harmony.
Love ever gives, forgives, outlives
And ever stands with open hands
And while it lives, it gives
For this is love’s prerogative
To give, and give and give. (John Oxenham)