Put Off Your Old NatureFr. Barnabas Powell
It was an old suit, but I loved it! It had both sentimental value and the added benefit of actually fitting me! But my dear bride said it had to go! Sure, it had a few stains but I thought they were hard to see. Yes, there was a tear inside the jacket, but I was the only one who was going to see that. And, OK, so the pants were a “little” frayed at the hem. The bride said it had to go, so it had to go! And yes, I grumbled the whole time, thank you very much!
We do tend to hold onto things too long sometimes. A ratty recliner, an old jacket, or, sometimes, a comfortable way of living that really doesn’t help us at all. In fact, more often than not, those “old ways” keep us tied to “old mistakes” and bad habits! I guess we all struggle with this.
And that’s not new or surprising to God. But it is a pattern of behavior we have to “put off” if we are ever going to be Orthodox on Purpose!
Once again today we take our lesson from the daily Epistle reading. Here St. Paul talks to his faithful at the Church of Ephesus in Ephesians 4:17-25:
BRETHREN, now this I affirm and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds; they are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart; they have become callous and have given themselves up to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of uncleanness. You did not so learn Christ! – assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus. Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, putting away falsehood, let every one speak the truth for we are members of one another.
St. Paul makes no bones about what this new commitment to Christ means for these Ephesian Orthodox Christians: “You must no longer live as the Gentiles do!” Why, Well, because the way these pagans live show that their understanding is “darkened;” “alienated from God’s life;” and their hardness of heart has left them greedy to practice every kind of uncleanness.” Pretty plain talk, don’t you think?
But, of course, St. Paul makes it clear that this kind of behavior reveals that these people are slaves; slaves to their own confusion; slaves to their habits; and slaves to a filthy life. St. Paul tells us today we have to “put off” this kind of life. It’s almost like he is telling us to “change” our clothing to more appropriate “dress” for those who claim to be enlightened by the Light of Christ. It isn’t a mistake that we call newly baptized Orthodox and newly chrismated Orthodox “newly Illumined.” Now we have the light to see clearly how not to be confused; how not to stumble in the darkness of our self-centeredness; and how to have a renewed mind by the wisdom of Christ.
We are called to say “goodbye” to our former lives because of our life in Christ. We are called to embrace that being taught Christ means a new way of thinking; a renewal of our minds. Isn’t it interesting that this kind of wisdom always starts with our thought process? That should give you an important insight into the value of a life of “metanoia.” We begin putting off our old nature by realizing we need to! BECAUSE we have a new nature to put on and these two different “natures” are always incompatible with each other! Our new nature is nothing less than a nature created after the “likeness of God.” This is what we Orthodox mean when we say “theosis!” And all of this isn’t just some personal behavioral modification, but vital to our being able to be in the community of others who have put off their old natures as well. We belong together BECAUSE of this new nature we have been given!
Today, are you still trying to wear that old, ratty, “nature” you use to wear? Maybe you’re trying to wear both “natures” at the same time. How’s that working out for you? Perhaps it’s time to let go of that old way of thinking and embrace with purpose the Orthodox way of life that makes us “like” Christ. The truth is you will never do anything more important in your whole life than actually become Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Speaking of “Theosis,” this Sunday night on an all new Faith Encouraged LIVE we are going to be talking together about this powerful teaching of the Church with my special guest Dr. Kyriaki Fitzgerald of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Boston. Dr. Fitzgerald was one of my favorite professors and you won’t want to miss her insights on the powerful theology of “Theosis.” That’s at 8 PM Sunday on AncientFaith.com!