Clothed with Christ, watchful prayer
February 17 — Colossians 3:5-17; February 24 — Colossians 4:2-6By June Galle Krehbiel
Mom, who was born in the early 1900s, once told me that when she was a child her mother made her children wear their long underwear from Labor Day until Easter. Imagine how free they must have felt when they peeled off the well-used underwear to don new clothing for Easter morning.
The Colossians 3 passage reminds us to peel off our old selves and to clothe ourselves with the new. Paul’s metaphoric words call us to “put to death” what is earthly. His strong language commands us not to temporarily put aside our sins but to completely do away with them.
Paul’s list is not all-inclusive, but he names at least 10 vices, several related to sexual sins, others to social ones. One commentator calls this passage Paul’s “missionary ethics, since virtuous character presumes conversion, and conversion presumes the preaching of the gospel” (IVP New Testament Commentaries at biblegateway.com).
How do we in the church put missionary ethics into practice? How do we address issues of sexual and social sins among our members? Within the body, how do we practice putting off the old and putting on the new?
Renewal stands at the heart of this passage. Central to the concept of renewal is the image of Christ. Distinctions based on ethnicity, privilege and status are also apparently put to death, because Paul calls us to take on Christ, the image of God.
We no longer wear the old long johns. We put on our Easter clothes for the new life Christ has called us to. And we wear these virtues not only externally as we relate to others, but internally, because Christ dwells in us (3:16). When our actions toward others display the love of Christ, when our words and actions reflect the name of the Lord Jesus, what results is a community of believers that gets along and worships God rightly (3:16-17).
Paul’s final words in Colossians 4 offer guidelines for a ministry of engaging prayer and gracious living. The Greek word for “devote” is the compound word proskartereo, which means “a motion toward being strong.” In Rom. 13:6 the same word is used to describe rulers who are busy attending to their duties. The same word is used in Acts 1:14, 2:46 and other verses.
If we think of all our prayer life as devoted, as a continuing movement toward God rather than sluggish words that sit in our brains or on our tongues, we have grasped Paul’s meaning to constantly be alert or wakeful in prayer.
How is the best way to move our prayers actively toward God? In our rapid-transit society, we have many ways to move quickly. But we also have many distractions. Paul’s direction to the Colossians was to pray regularly amid the distractions, to pray with an attitude of thankfulness and to pray for Paul and others working with him in opening and expanding the door of Christian missions.
How we conduct ourselves, especially in front of those who are not Christian, is especially important, Paul tells us.
I am reminded of a young woman who moved from Russia to Kansas. She was not a happy person. One day she asked a store clerk why she smiled all the time. The young woman was surprised to learn that the clerk attributed her pleasantness to the fact that she was a Christian. This experience, coupled with the young woman’s compelling need to learn about Jesus, led to her conversion.
Like the store clerk, may we daily conduct ourselves in ways that honor Jesus and the faith of our ancestors. Even a simple smile can lead others to Christ.
June Galle Krehbiel, from Eden Mennonite Church at Moundridge, Kan., is a freelance writer and copy editor.
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