Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Putting Off Sin and Putting On the Church

Reading:  Colossians 3   
Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous is his isolation. Sin wants to remain unknown. It shuns the light.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
As I read this quote I was reminded of the text in Colossians 3:1-11 which we covered in our series in Colossians in January of this year (Living Life Hidden Away in Christ (Part 1) - Colossians 3:1-11). In vs. 5-9, Paul has what is commonly referred to as a “put-off” list of sins. This is not a complete list of the sins we are to put off, but a representative list. Beginning in vs. 10, he talks about what we are to put on: the new self, which is Christ. Therefore, we are to clothe ourselves in Christ (3:12-14). We have died, and we are now to live our lives hidden in Christ. Therefore, we are to put off living as if we haven't died, and start living hidden in Christ... clothed in Christ.
So while vs. 10 and following describe life in the body of Christ, vs. 5-9 describe sin that is contrary to that life as the body of Christ. The sins of vs. 5-9 can only be lived in if we still think and act as if we are in the old man, in self, isolated from community. They are put off as we come into the light and live in light of community.
Paul placed these sins into two groupings which could be described this way:
1)vs. 5 Hidden Sins of Shame that Die as We Walk in the Light: list of shameful thoughts and actions, which people do in hiding from each other. Therefore, as we live in light with each other, we put these off.
2)vs. 8-9 Sins of Relationship which Divide: a list of sins and attitudes which divide the church and relationships instead of unite. So we must put them off in pursuit of unity. The list of clothes we are to put on as we clothe ourselves in Christ (vs. 12-14), is a description of the nature of Christ that will bring us together and hold us together as we put them on.
One of the greatest cures to sin is to realize that we are no longer living life unto ourselves. We are part of a body. When we come into this world we are born into a family. When we come into the kingdom of God, we are born into His family, the church. A Christian cannot put-off the sins of Colossians 3:5-9 living by himself, in isolation. It is the very isolation and self-life which perpetrates those sins. Neither can a Christian put-off those sins by merely trying harder, by somehow taking an axe of private-effort to them. Rather, he puts them off by living in the light and pursuing the fellowship of the church—pursuing compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; embracing opportunities to bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances we may have against one another; forgiving as the Lord forgave us.
Living in the light” includes confessing our sin to one another. As Bonhoeffer says, “Sin wants to remain unknown. It shuns the light.” Expose it. There is freedom from the bondage of sin when it is confessed and brought into the light. When we confess our sin to one another, we are confessing to the fellowship of forgiven sinners, and that sin can no longer separate us from one another.
Bonhoeffer continues, “The root of all sin is pride... I want to be my own law, I have a right to my self, my hatred and my desires, my life and my death.” Living in the Christ-centered community, the church, puts sin to death because it places the axe right at the root of sin.