Scripture presents a vision for people following JESUS to drastically change how we all think about sexual ethics, communication and discrimination of all sorts. It starts with a complete wardrobe change that looks like a complete personal makeover.
Colossians 3:5–11 (NIV)
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
In light of 2:11–15, where one also finds the metaphor of taking off clothing this likely reflects the background of baptism, when believers participate in the death and resurrection of Christ. Together with the call to “put on” in v. 12, however, this pair also points to the use of the clothing metaphor. Some have understood the coexistence of these two metaphors as rooted in OT practice, where the priest washed himself with water before clothing himself with the sacred garment as he approached God (cf. Exod 29:4–9; Lev. 16:3–4).77 This clothing metaphor also likely alludes to the Adam account in Genesis. As God provided a new set of clothing for the fallen humans (Gen 3:7, 21), here Paul uses this change of clothing to signify the believers’ “inaugurated new-creation relationship with God.” The reference to the new creation (“according to the image of their Creator”) in v. 10 confirms this allusion. Elsewhere in Paul, “the old humanity” refers to “the body ruled by sin” (Rom 6:6). In the present context, Paul points not only to the regeneration of one’s nature, but also to the new community that is created, a community that bears the image of God. For those reading through the lens of individualism, the climactic statement in v. 11 is surprising since it defines not one’s inner being but the new community of God’s people: “where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free” (v. 11). – David W. Pao
There are two main areas of behaviour which he lists as typical of the old lifestyle that is now to be abandoned. They have to do with sex on the one hand and speech on the other—two central areas of human life, both involving great potential for good and also for evil. In both cases Paul offers a list which includes most of the problem areas. These are practices which are abuses, rather than proper uses, of these two gifts of God. The way to deal with such practices, he says, is quite clear. There is to be no gentle, half-hearted approach to such things, no toying with them as continuing possibilities. They are like vermin that mustn’t be allowed into the house in case they poison the food or the water supply. They are not to be pitied. They are to be killed off, put to death. The catalogue of sexual misbehaviour includes both actions and thoughts. ‘Illicit sexual behaviour’ is a wide term which includes sexual intercourse outside marriage… We should note particularly that Paul labels greed (here presumably meaning sexual greed) as a form of idolatry. Sexual fantasies, in other words, are off limits for the Christian, not simply because of the actions they may produce, but because they are in themselves a way of worshipping a false god, the pagan divinity of erotic love. Like all pagan worship, this consists of giving one’s allegiance to something in the transient world of present experience, rather than to the living God, the creator. The inevitable result is death. Paul is just as concerned with sins of speech as he is with sexual sin. (It would be good if today’s church could get this balance right.) Both alike inflict serious damage on the one who commits them, those who are immediately affected by them, and the wider community. Again, the list in verse 8 consists of overlapping words for angry and hurtful speech; and in verse 9 he highlights one danger in particular, the telling of lies. The Christian gospel is about truth, and there is no place for untruths in the Christian community. – N.T. Wright
In Bill Watterson’s comic strip, “Calvin and Hobbes,” Hobbes, a stuffed tiger, takes on lifelike proportions when he is alone with six-year-old Calvin. In one panel, he asks Calvin how he is doing on his New Year’s resolutions. Calvin responds that he did not make any and explains: “See, in order to improve oneself, one must have some idea of what’s “good.” That implies certain values. But as we all know, values are relative. Every system of belief is equally valid and we need to tolerate diversity. Virtue isn’t “better” than vice. It’s just different. Hobbes, the embodiment of a greater wisdom, replies that he does not think he can “tolerate so much tolerance.” The indomitable Calvin will not budge: “I refuse to be victimized by notions of virtuous behavior.” Calvin represents our shallow, relativistic values. Many today believe that we should be left to ourselves to create our own morals from a smorgasbord of equally valid choices. In Colossians, Paul makes it clear that there are objective standards that Christians are expected to meet. The church should muster all its energy to instill these values in its members. Martin puts it well: “These teachings constitute an inescapable call to make the ethics of the Savior the ethics of the saved.” – David Garland