This story may or may not be true, but it is a good story. A white woman was angry that her economy seat on an airplane put her beside a black man. She protested loudly to the stewardess that she did not want to sit beside this black person. The stewardess explained that economy was full, but the woman continued to yell at her. The stewardess then said that they did have room in first class. She added that, “No one should have to sit with an unpleasant person beside them.” She turned to the black man and told him to gather up his things and then moved him to first class. If I’d been there, I might have applauded.
Every morning the daily newspaper features stories about conflict. If examined closely, most of these stories find their roots in selfishness. People want their own way, will go to great lengths to get it, and the results are headline material. Not all of them feature a thoughtful and classy stewardess who knows how to treat selfishness.
These stories make me wonder what would happen if selfishness disappeared? Would wars end? Would families stay together? Would the economy suffer? Or improve? Would advertising change? Would I buy as much as I do? Would I talk differently? What would life be like if just one person stopped being selfish?
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. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:8–11)
This statement is God’s norm for His people. Because of Christ, it is possible for Christians to put off their old way of life and put on the new nature given to them when we are reborn and adopted into the family of God. Instead of the selfishness that shows up in anger, wrath, malice and so on, we can think and act like Jesus Christ. This is possible because He lives in us by His Spirit and offers us all we need for life and godliness.
This morning I notice something else in these verses. When a Christian has put off the old and put on the new, there is a loss of division. That is, the New Testament conflict that once existed between Jews and Greeks is gone. The conflict between Jews and non-Jews is gone. The conflict between people of faith and pagans is gone, as is the division between slaves and free persons. Instead of being identified by belonging to one of these groups, those in Christ Jesus are identified by being in Christ. He takes the preeminence.
Could this be the reason that conflict is chosen far too often over unity and peace? In selfishness, does hanging on to our old identity become more important than giving it up? Whatever the reasons for wars, God does offer a cure for selfishness and lack of unity, but we need to love the cure more than having our own way.
Lord, being in Christ is so far superior to being in that old self, whatever form that takes. Whether I’m tempted today to have my own way, or just put my focus on what I want rather than what others need, may the life of Christ overwhelm that temptation. You are all and in all. May my life shine for You.
Update: Yesterday, I had to go to the ER for another cardioversion. This time they added a second medication that is supposed to regulate the rhythm of my heart. Both medications make the pulse slower and lower my blood pressure. I slept 2-3 hours in the afternoon and ten hours last night, but have as much energy as a deflated balloon. My appointment with a cardiologist is February 9. In the meantime, I will be moving very slowly.