I have a bad habit that unfortunately I think I share with many other people on the planet. Some of my clothes don’t fit anymore. I could be all clever and say that the clothes shrunk while they hung in my closet but that’s simply not true. A lack of regular fitness and a propensity to snag a Hershey bar while I’m reading have added up and now I am bigger than those clothes. Now this is a problem that can be fixed for the most part but it requires dedication, discipline and sweat.
I say “for the most part” because there are some clothes that, no matter how many miles I run or reps I do, will never fit again. Because I have given birth to four children. Giving birth changes your body. Men, remember this when you say things to the mother of your children like, “Remember that really cute skirt you wore on our first date? Think that still fits?” She keeps that skirt because, yes, she remembers wearing it on her first date and keeping the skirt around is the only way she will remember because giving birth to children has also altered her brain/memory in ways you will never understand. But that’s another story…
Now back to my bad habit. Even though I know those close will never fit me again, they are still hanging in the back of my closet. I’ve made buckets and buckets of donations to Goodwill. And I’ve handed down clothes to folks all over kingdom come. But there are two dresses in particular that always manage to survive the purge. Because they are from a time in my life that holds deep feelings and memories. I don’t think they will ever fit again, but they still hang there.
Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him – a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. So as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were call in one body; and be thankful.
I went on a geek tangent this morning while I was waiting on my coffee and looked up some of the Greek roots. Now I am 15 years removed from my Greek but the basic definitions for the words translated “put aside” and “put on” fascinated me. “Put aside” means to distance yourself from something. But even further (and remember this is my rusty understanding – study for yourselves too to see if I’m right!), it means to spoil something before you put it away from you so that you can’t even go back and get it.
So when Paul tells the people to “put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander and abusive speech from your mouth,” he is telling the people to break those habits in their lives and put them as far away as possible. Allow God to destroy those things in you so that you no longer have any use for them and by extension no desire.
Those two dresses in the back of my closet are in perfect condition. They could still be useful if they fit. Now what if one of them had a tear right down the middle of the skirt. I’m sure it would be so much easier to get rid of it.
If I can justify my anger and wrath, it still has a use for me. It still seems ok to be in that sin because I can explain why and make it look like it’s ok. If someone does something that I think is just atrocious, I can talk about it and get caught in slander because they did it and they deserve for everyone to know they did it because it was wrong and they should be called to justice and repentance. It has a use.
This is not what we are called to do. We are to break the habits and be done with them.
“Put on” is equally as engaging though. As I dug through the definition here I found the image of “sink down into.” “Put on a new self who is being renewed.” Sink down into that new heart that is free of all the broken habits God has cleaned out. “Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” I don’t know about anyone else but all of those “clothes” seem so much more comfortable than the first list. Sink down into compassion. Wallow in kindness. Wrap up in humility. Nestle your heart in gentleness and robe your spirit in patience. And over it all shellac yourself in love which makes the rest possible.
As I approach the closet of my heart, I pray that God will render all those old habits useless to me. May He reveal to me the damage and hurt and worthlessness of those feelings and actions so that I may freely put them as far away from me as possible.
I think I prefer my new clothes. May they always fit perfectly.