But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Colossians 3:8-10
Infection control and personal protective equipment (PPE) were once just part of the background of medicine to me. With the arrival of Covid-19 however, those concepts were thrust to the forefront of my daily life. Where I once simply washed hands before going from one room to another, I had to begin changing gowns, gloves, and stethoscopes between every patient. At the height of the pandemic, it seemed like I changed gowns thirty times a day.
While seeing a patient with any virus, I’m at risk for getting that virus on myself. To protect myself and others from contamination, I continually removed the old gown to put on a clean new one. Simply taking the old one off wasn’t enough and only putting on new gowns wasn’t possible. For the sake of everyone’s health, I had to do both – continually take off the old and put on the new.
Whatever your views on Covid-19, this is an apt metaphor for the Christian life and though Paul knew nothing of coronaviruses, it’s very similar to the metaphor he used in today’s passage. In it, he said that we must continually take off the old self so that we may put on the new self. Paul knew that to live on this Earth meant that we would naturally and continually be infected with anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscene talk, and dishonesty. To live the intended Christian life then, he said we must daily take these things off so that we may put on that which is clean and pure.
This isn’t accidental or automatic. In the clinic, I didn’t enjoy changing gowns with every new patient. It was terribly inconvenient. If I’d have followed my natural instincts, I would’ve just kept the same dirty gown on all day. To be compliant, and to be hygienic, I had to purposefully discipline myself to continually take off and put on.
Daily, if we want to experience the new life, we must go to God, asking him what it is that we need to take off today. Then, we must do what it takes to remove those evil thoughts, words, and actions. Finally, we must seek the new life, putting on love, truth, and purity. For our spiritual health and for the health of those around us, we must continually take off the old to put on the new.