Put on the New Nature… Love

Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:1—4,12-17

Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

If then 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 hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then we also will appear with him in glory.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as you teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Reflections on the Text

Gathering in community is not easy. It requires all of the virtues and strengths listed above by St. Paul. But perhaps two particular things could be emphasized. The first is the need to have “the word of Christ” dwell in us “richly.” Many of us are truly impoverished by our lack of nourishment from God’s word. On the other hand, pastors know of those in comas or some forms of senility who respond in a seemingly unconscious way to prayer — sometimes reciting the church’s prayers when no other rational conversation can take place. What might be the words that come “automatically” from our mouths in such a state?The word does not dwell in us magically nor haphazardly. It “comes and abides” in us slowly and is reinforced by the scriptures, liturgy, prayers, sacraments, and all the other ways that God provides. The word quiets us and can also instruct our own conversation (Col. 4:5-6). The word can fill us, but it can also challenge us and empty us of our self-preoccupations.

The second point is that the word can come from us in many forms, but the essential one is that of thanksgiving. Fr. Alexander Elchaninov reminds us that there are “no accidental meetings.” God has allowed us the opportunity of being within particular communities. Some of these opportunities have been better than others. Yet each one, with its good and its difficult moments, has given us a time and place to praise God and be thankful.

God is our King before the ages, and he has worked and continues to work his salvation in the midst of the earth (Ps. 74:12). His salvation is worked out from the midst of the community: those gathered in his name, those who make up his body, those who have been raised with Christ and have put on the new nature.

Relating the Bible to Our Lives

1. What are some things for which you would like to offer thanks? What aspects of your community’s life are reasons for offering thanks to God? What are some of the ways our thanks to God can be expressed?

Usually we are most thankful for moments and events that have brought happiness to us. Think of some things which, while being difficult, had a profound effect on you and which may have been a help in “putting off” the old nature.

2. What is the meaning of the expression: “For you have died and your life is hid with Christ in God”? What, in fact, do we die to? What does it mean to hide our life with Christ in God?

3. Define “peace” generally and elaborate on how the “peace of Christ” can be acquired. How does it relate to the work of building up the community? What are the subjects of disagreement in your parish? What attitudes and actions, to which St. Paul refers (see Col. 3:l2ff.), could help in reducing the disagreement or conflict within your parish? What do St. Paul’s words tell you about “setting your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” or about “putting on the new nature”?

4. Can you describe the kind of community that you would wish your children or grandchildren to be part of? Can you envision your parish becoming that kind of community? List some of the steps that would help to make this a reality.

5. In our own lives we belong to many kinds of families. One of these, which is our church family, is the parish, but just as our own small family is related to many other families, so our church family in the parish is related to and is in communion with the larger church family of the diocese and the Church as a whole. Are the attitudes and actions mentioned in Question 3 necessary for our life in the larger church family? How does the wider Church enrich our life as members of the family of God?