Toddlers and preschoolers love to play dress-up as part of their expanding imaginations. “I’m an alligator! I need my alligator suit!” said one boy, demanding his plush costume. “I’m a princess—that’s why I have a crown!” said a little girl. Whether playing superheroes, princesses, or animals, young children love to dress the part.
The apostle Paul uses the metaphor of dressing up or clothing ourselves in several of his letters (see also Eph. 6:10–18). Our text today provides us with a detailed list of exactly what we should take off and put on as evidence of our true identity.
First, Paul describes the thoughts, motives, and actions that we need to abandon. It’s important to notice the exhortation here: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature . . . rid yourselves of all such things” (vv. 5, 7). Though we now have life in Christ, we still struggle with temptations of lust and greed and anger. We have been saved but not fully perfected; we continue to battle sin. The key distinction between our status as dead to Christ and now as alive to Christ is that we no longer want to persist in sexual immorality or rage. We are continually taking off these filthy old garments.
In their place, Paul encourages us to put on the perspectives and practices that reflect Jesus. Kindness, compassion, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and above all love should be the clothing we are choosing to wear (vv. 12–14; see 1 Cor. 13:13; Gal. 5:22–23). Life in Christ means pursuing peace and unity with each other. We demonstrate our new life through telling others about Him and singing His praises. Every aspect of life will become draped in service to Christ and gratitude to God (vv. 15–17).
Apply the Word
The metaphor of changing our clothes to reflect our identity can help us avoid the twin pitfalls of feeling complacent about our sin and feeling defeated by our sin. Are you too comfortable in the dirty rags of greed or selfishness? Focus on the glorious garments of humility and gratitude. Thank God that now you can put on love.