Sunday, Dec. 24, on Epistle of St Paul to the Colossians 3:4-11
In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, One God. Amen.
You've heard me talk in the past about how unwelcoming and dangerous this world is. How our culture is basically messed up. How we, as Christians, should try to avoid the traps this world and the perverseness of the culture.
As Christians, we say that we are in this world, but we are not of this world. We live in this world, in the society, surrounded by the culture, but we are not defined by them, we are above them, or at least we try very hard not to be defined by them, because we are Christ’s. We have His stamp on us.
On the other hand, we can’t run away from this world, unless we are ready to live in constant prayer and fasting like the great Egyptian desert Fathers who established monasticism. So the question becomes – how do we live in this world, without becoming of this world? What defines our life as those who belong to Christ?
The first thing is baptism. Without accepting Christ, without putting on Christ, without becoming part of His Body, His Church, we can’t belong to Him. Baptism establishes unbreakable link between Jesus and His members.
Baptism incorporates us into Christ so that all that He is, we are also. He died, and so we die. He was raised from the dead, and so we are raised with Him. He sits at the right hand of God the Father, and, in Him, so do we.
Christ is above all earthly categories and claims and concerns, and so we are too. Since we are in Him, we share His transcendence and are above all the passing things of this world. Because we have been raised with Jesus, we, therefore, put to death, as St Paul says today, we do away with earthly things, such as fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, anger, wrath, slander, filthy and abusive language. Since we are with Christ, we have nothing to do with them. We put no effort, no life, no energy into these sins, they are not part of our life.
You might be thinking right now – if this is the case, if we belong to Christ, and are above these worldly things, why are we so concentrated on them, why are we chasing earthly pleasures and not Christ’s peace? Why is our life dominated by today’s culture, and not Christ’s teachings?
The answer is a bit more complicated than a simple – because we choose to do so. Yes, sometimes it’s easier to choose the way of sin and death, than the way of life. And yes, we do have this God-given power to choose, the freedom to decide what we want. And this freedom is not guaranteed to us by the Constitution, but by God.
So, we know that if we are with Christ, then we are above things like fornication, anger, hate, racism, abusive language, passion, impurity. But…what if we find ourselves immersed in these and other, more heinous sins? Then it means that we are not with Christ…yet. We are on the way, but not there yet.
Baptism in the Orthodox Faith, on its own, does not guarantee anything. It gives us a chance, it shows that the life with Christ means putting to death our earthly passions. But baptism alone will not put them to death for us. Just like we chose, or someone else chose for us, to be Orthodox Christian, in the same way we daily choose to be above soul-destroying sins.
Today’s epistle of St Paul was to the Colossian community, whose culture was extremely pagan. Like us, they were learning to choose Christ’s life over the life of useless death.
In a way, times have not changed much. Our culture, our world, is again increasingly becoming pagan. The sins that St Paul tells the Colossians to put to death, are also dominating our life – fornication, adultery, impurity, evil desire, greed, anger, slander, and so forth.
But just like the Colossians, we have the new life with Christ, we no longer have anything to do with these filthy sins. St Paul even stresses, that there is no going back. These things belong to the past, and they must remain there. While we belong to Jesus, and remain with Him.
We were originally created in God’s image to know Him and to share His joy. Sin obscured this image and ruined this fellowship between God and human beings. But now, through Christ, this image is being restored, so that we can walk with God and know Him once again.
How do we overcome, avoid, and put to death our sins, and walk with Christ? By living a Christian life. This life is the life of harmony – harmony with God and His will for us (and He has only one will – for us to be saved), and harmony with each other, when we put others, the needs of others, ahead of ourselves.
Our life is defined by who we belong to. By living in this world, we do not belong to it. We belong to Christ and we have nothing to do with the empty passions of today’s culture. As St Paul says today, “When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then we also will be revealed with Him in glory. Christ is all and in all.”