So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. That, however, is not the way of life you learned… You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:17–20, 22–24)
When I started a job as a acquisitions/commissioning editor in London, I was overwhelmed by the many new things to learn. Some were obvious, such as the names of colleagues, a different computer system, unfamiliar publications. Some, however, lurked below the surface, such as the working culture, personalities and relationships, expectations and emotions. I returned home those early days utterly exhausted. But before long, my new editorial life felt comfortable and familiar.
Here Paul is urging his readers to leave their old lives of sin behind. Though the new converts were still living next to the Gentiles, they were not to mimic their actions or their hardness of heart. Instead, they were to put on their new self, in which they would reflect God’s righteousness and holiness.
Paul speaks of the old and new selves throughout his letters. To name a few: Romans 6:6: “…our old self was crucified with him…”; Colossians 3:9: “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self…”; Romans 13:14: “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.” Employing this baptismal language, he yearns that the new believers would commit themselves fully to the ways of Christ, leaving greed and impurity behind.
What do we need to leave behind from our old selves? A not-too-edifying television drama? A spirit of complaining? A lack of thankfulness? Join me in asking the Lord to illuminate those areas where we are corrupted, that our minds and hearts may be renewed.
Prayer: Lord, we want to be made clean and holy. Help us to embrace the new life you are forming in us.