March 22, 2019
But now you must put them all away.
Gracious and Ruthless
We mess up. All the time, in countless ways. We hurt people, and they hurt us in turn. This is something we need to deal with in our lives; the question is how?
God has set a shining example in his reaction to sin. On one hand, he condemns it because it harms us, those around us and our relationship with him. At the same time, he extends incredible grace to us. The pinnacle of God’s grace regarding our sin is Jesus’ death on the cross and his subsequent resurrection. This act is sufficient to cover all of our sins with forgiveness.
What does this knowledge mean for us when we’ve been hurt? Peter asked Jesus this same question and his answer was simple – do as I did and forgive again and again. God showed us incredible grace and we are called to pass it on to our neighbors. Clearly, a stern word is appropriate in some situations, especially to those close to us. (I’m guessing parents will agree?) However, knowing how easily we fall into temptation, how could we expect anyone else not to? We are called to show grace to our neighbor no matter what. Their sin may affect us directly and can hurt, but we are still called to show forgiveness and grace. There may come times when the best way of forgiving includes a clean cut and an ended relationship. Generally, however, we need to deal with the sin of others by showing grace.
And what are we called to do when we are the ones sinning? Paul suggests a simple solution in Colossians 3:8: But now you must put them all away. This “putting them all away” is at once drastic and simple. Paul is asking us to be ruthless with ourselves as regards sin. We need to face our sin with purpose and intention if we want to make real change. Simply vowing to change our ways is not enough.
Of course, from the standpoint of God’s grace, this seems contradictory — and maybe that’s the point! Because even as we deal ruthlessly with our sinful behavior, we know that we will fail again. Which is exactly why we will always need grace. In the midst of our ruthlessness towards ourselves, we must remember the grace we’re promised. There is no point in beating ourselves up over our faults. Ruthlessness is only healthy when it is done with the firm knowledge that God covers all our sin and that he wants us to forgive not only others but also ourselves.