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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, August 2, 2019           

Today’s Scripture Reading | Colossians 3:1-11

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life.

But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all! (NRSV)

Are you a list maker? I am. Usually I’ve got multiple ones going at the same time: today and this weekend, home and work, library and Target.

Paul was a list maker, too. He came up with some really famous ones: his delineation about love (1 Corinthians 13:4–8), his description of what disciples should be thinking about (Philippians 4:8), his catalogue of what will not separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38–39).

Here he gives us not one list, but two. Verses 5 and 8 get pretty specific about the vices that the Colossians—and we—must put aside to really live life in Christ.

It’s not that the Colossians were so debauched that they needed those two lists of hard-core sins. They were a church that Paul had neither founded nor visited, and they were getting distracted by people teaching about angels and tangential rituals. Paul needed to redirect them, to remind them about the priorities of Christianity.

That’s part of what a good list does, right? It keeps us from forgetting what we otherwise might and aids in breaking big projects down to manageable tasks. “Living the Christian life” counts as a pretty big project, and as much as I don’t relish thinking about anger and deceit and immorality, it’s helpful to have those things brought to my attention. Corruption of morals or behavior doesn’t happen all at once. It’s insidious, and peccadilloes can become defects, foibles become failings, without me noticing.

But if there’s a list . . .

God, help me to be what I say I am. Give me, please, the insight to perceive where the vices creep in and the grace to address them. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Written by Susan Quaintance, Director, Center for Life and Learning

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