If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Colossians 3:1-11 [ESV]
Maybe you’ve been the brunt of someone’s anger and ire. Blazing hot angry words cascade all over your soul. You are reduced to a non-person by someone else’s bitterness and rage. But anger is not always the opposite of love. Sometimes love kindles anger – or at least a strong reaction against things in us that have offended or hurt another. Where there’s anger, at least in a way, there’s hope. When there is silence – cold, unmoved, and careless withdrawal – there is no hope.
Some see God’s wrath as the white hot blitz of retribution and active punishment. But there is another way to look at it. What if God simply withdrew. No more providential supply. No more patient waiting. No more ears open to our prayers. No angels sent to protect us. No friends coming by to offer kindness. Just darkness. Cold. Empty. Silence.
When Jesus hung on the cross he cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” This is the cry of anguish when we experience the wrath of God. His abandonment creates a void that absorbs our very soul. This is wrath of the worst kind: God takes his hands off of us. If he is chastising us, and his hand is heavy on us, there is hope of his presence, kindness, goodness, and grace. His hand may be heavy, but it’s there. But what if there is no hand. No goodness. No love. No grace. Just the utter black hole of a godless eternity. I do not want to face that.
Paul warns here, that the wrath of God will come on account of sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. This is the same point that he makes in Romans 2 where the terrible phrase “he gave them over…” appears again and again, as he speaks of people who abandon his ways. So whether it’s sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, or covetousness, God will let us have our way if we insist. And it will be our doom. Our utter doom. Our eternal doom.
So we put to death those things that feed the sinful flesh. Sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness are always temptations for us as long as we are in this world. But we put them to death daily. And we return to our compassionate, good, faithful, kind, and gracious God. And, thanks be to God, he receives us. Forgives us. Puts us back on the path. Gives us hope and a future.
This is the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. We need not experience the wrath of God. We need not have him take his hands off of us. In fact we look for the nail-scarred hands of Jesus and long for his touch. He heals, forgives, and blesses.
For that we can be truly thankful as we set our minds on the things above, where Christ is. We look forward to his appearing and to that time when we will appear with him in glory.