If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!
Paul returns to the theme of what we were and what we now are. He uses several metaphors to convey the change when we become Christians. There is the image of putting off and putting on–stripping ourselves of all that belonged to our old identity and clothing ourselves for the new. There is the image of moving from a ‘darkened understanding’ into a new attitude of mind – leaving behind the futility, ignorance and sensuality of the past, and living transparently before God. We are new selves, and need to show we have been changed by Christ.
Yet, just in case his readers get too caught up in his eloquence, Paul then gives some down-to-earth instructions. Believers should not lie. They should not harbour resentment. Those who were thieves must stop stealing and do an honest day’s work. We should take care in what we say. There should be no gossip, bitterness, brawling, dirty talk, rage or malice. This is very plain talk, with no room for ambiguity.
There is something extremely sensible about Paul’s advice. He does not condemn anger, for example, for clearly we should be angry about oppression or exploitation. Anger at injustice has led Christians to confront the wrong, and change society. But we should not let anger lead us to sin. And if we are angry with someone on a personal level, we should sort it our before we go to sleep: ‘do not let the sun go down while you are still angry’. Otherwise, we take it to bed with us, and have very bad night! Even when we know that we are forgiven, it’s not always easy to be kind, compassionate and forgiving, but is is sound theology and profoundly good sense.
What things might you need to ‘put off’ if you are to grow more in Christ? Pray; then start a list and make plans for letting them go.