During the sermon last Sunday morning, in Colossians 3, the preacher said that Paul’s teaching was encouraging the readers to let the peace, love and purity of Christ permeate the world around them, rather than what was happening in Colossi; the pluralistic culture permeating the church.
In the course of the sermon, when talking about the characteristics and behaviour of “the new self”, he said something along the lines of, ‘if you are in Christ, you have the Spirit of the Lord; by grace, you can do these things…’ These things being, patience, compassion, kindness, forgiveness and love, and the context is within the church – Christian to Christian.
So why don’t we do it all the time? Why aren’t we perfect? If we have the Spirit of Christ to do these things, why aren’t we doing them?
The IVP New Dictionary of Theology, when describing perfection, says – “At all times Christians have been faced with the tension between this calling to reflect in their lives and conduct the perfect holiness of God, and the fact, all too evident to experience, of the continuing presence within the personality of the sinful tendencies of their former lives.”
Now if you’re like me, you had to read that a few times, then read it again, stopping at every comma – and eventually are quizzically looking at your own right eye, getting the gist of it.
I think what it means is – we’re supposed to be perfect, or at least WANT to be perfect, but we are incapable of being so. Or maybe the Apostle Paul, puts it better in Romans 7… “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do… For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”
This is the dilemma we are living with, the tension of the now and not yet. We have this ‘new self’, the old person we used to be is gone. Yet we still don’t have it sussed. No more or less than the Colossian Christians, to whom Paul had to write to teach them how they should treat each other.
So if you’re like them (and me), struggling to get it right, mostly getting it wrong; tripping up a lot of the time – often over the same stumbling blocks – well, be don’t despair…
* except Jesus 🙂