As we continue our discussion about peace and conflict based on Andy Farmer’s book Real Peace: What we Long for and Where to Find It, we come to Colossians 3:8-9. We have seen that we need to seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated. We have seen the importance of putting to death our earthly cravings, those things we pursue that fall far short of real peace. We recognize that peace is broken by our desires which war against our souls.
Our natural response to this kind of thing is this: if our cravings are the problem, maybe we should just bottle them up and or keep them to ourselves. The problem with this is that our commitments to do just that don’t last very long. Our human ability to bottle these things up is extremely limited. All too often, our earthly cravings escape as actions which cause conflict.
Colossians 3:8-9 says,
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… (ESV)
If you thought long and hard, I don’t know that you could come up with a better All-Star team of peace breaking actions than the ones listed in Colossians 3:8-9. Think about the conflicts you become involved in and how these 6 things inject themselves into almost every one of them.
When we display anger, we are looking for a fight. An angry person is easily frustrated and always ready to respond with harsh words or revengeful actions. Related to anger is wrath. Human wrath is a hurtful, explosive outburst meant to wound. How many conflicts begin or are kicked into a high gear by these things?
Next on Paul’s list is malice. To hold malice against someone else is to harbor the wrongs done to us. Malice quickly morphs into hatred and bitterness, poisoning our souls toward that other person. Malice has the ability to sustain a conflict. That insensitive word at work or that selfish action by your spouse can become, if we are not careful, something we dwell on and use as a weapon, sometimes days or weeks or months later.
Slander also escalates conflict. Perhaps born out of an angry or bitter heart, in slander we give our tongues free reign to say anything we want about the other person. We don’t hold back and we discover the most juicy, cutting, or vicious things coming out of our mouths. We don’t even care if they are true or not, as long as their hurt. Partnering with slander is obscene talk, verbal attacks using offensive and violent language that is far away from anything peaceful.
Paul ends his list with lying, this tendency we have to cover our sins, to reject our responsibility and to avoid blame for our selfishness. We lie because we fear the truth, or have placed our pride on the throne of our hearts or perhaps we are convinced that we are the victim. There is no peace in lying, there is no wholeness or well-being or order in a heart that is set on speaking things that are not the truth.
Again, Paul reminds us that these things are part of our old life. They should be things that are put away in our new lives. Their power to control our lives has been crucified with Christ. You no longer have to be enslaved by these things. While we will never be free of these things completely this side of heaven, God seeks to apply his powerful, transformative power to these areas of our life. He is able to increasingly replace our peace-breaking words and actions with words and actions that promote His peace in our lives and in the lives of those around us.