November 23, 2009

Put it on?

Whenever someone studies the Bible, one of the first steps is making sure that they know what the words say. This is primary yet well-read people tend to take this step for granted, particularly if the words are simple. Yet this can be dangerous because even simple words can mean something other than what we think they mean.

For instance, when I read the words “put on” I tend to think of someone doing something misleading, they are acting or putting on an attitude that is not real or normal for them. Today, I looked up “put on” and found that even an ordinary dictionary lists six meanings. Three of them resemble the meaning that pops into my head.
    3. To assume affectedly: put on an English accent.
    4. Slang, to tease or mislead (another): You're putting me on!
    6. To produce; perform: put on a variety show.

The other three are more positive and do not have that sense of faking it.
    1.  To clothe oneself with; don: put on a coat; put socks on.
    2. To apply; activate: put on the brakes.
    5. To add: put on weight.

Consider these six meanings for the following verses about the way Christians are supposed to live.
Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him. (Colossians 3:9-10)
If any of the first three meanings are assumed, then the passage is about acting, playing a part, being misleading. That is not what the Bible is talking about, but often that is the way the Christian life is interpreted. Put on a Christian face, show a pious and spiritual attitude. Never mind what is really going on, just look good on the outside.

Definition #1 is closer to what the verses are saying. Most commentators say that putting on the new life is like putting on clothes, but even this definition misses the idea a little bit. Putting on clothes could be seen as an external action, a covering up of what someone is really like. This is not what God has in mind. The Greek word is more about “sinking into” clothes, perhaps a slight difference, but it puts to mind a deeper thing than just donning a new persona or affecting an external change.

All that being said, the context enriches the ideas in these verses. The former self was involved in sinful living, but Christians are given a new mind, the mind of Christ. With that, we have a renewed knowledge that is more like the innocence and openness of a babe yet this renewed understanding is patterned after Jesus Christ. Instead of being like we once were, we are told to dump that like an old rag, and now be like the new people He has made us.

We are to wear that newness, live by it, sink into it, let be the way we are, not a way we pretend to be. Our piety is not to be a big “put on” but genuine, from the inside out, like Jesus.

As soon as I start saying to myself, “How should I act in this situation?” then I have lost the very thing Colossians 3 is talking about. The new nature is a choice, but once it is yielded to, then the Holy Spirit does the deciding and I just am who I am. It isn’t a put on.

These are only two simple words, yet what a difference the definitions make. Without checking it out, I could think it is okay to wear a church face, or pretend I am patient, or let others see only the “good” side of me.

Renewed knowledge, and a bit of effort to activate that knowledge with some Bible study, says otherwise.

1 comment:

LC said...

Sometimes a comment is posted that makes little sense. I usually delete them. If "anonymous" checks back to see if the post is here, he/she will find this message. The post said (with spelling corrected), "What's Happening? I'm fresh on here, I came across this website I find It quite helpful & it has helped me a great deal. I hope to contribute and guide others like it has helped me.
Thank You, See Ya About."

I'm glad that my post was helpful, yet I find this comment a puzzle.