The New Self

The New Self March 5, 2012

“…Put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.” ~Ephesians 4:22-24

St. Paul was a great teacher of Christianity because he understood the human spirit – he knew the weakness and the strength, the foolishness and the wisdom, the vice and the virtue of the human person. In the above passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he makes a keen insight into our humanity. It is not enough for a person to simply “put away the old self of [his] former way of life,” says St. Paul; rather, he must also “put on the new self,” otherwise he will quickly fall back into his old ways. St. Paul goes on to explain:

“Therefore, putting away falsehood, speak the truth…” (Ephesians 4:25)
“The thief must no longer steal, but rather labor, doing honest work with his [own] hands…” (Eph 4:28)
“No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification…” (Eph 4:29)
“All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. [And] be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.” (Eph 4:31-32)

What is St. Paul telling us here? It is not enough for a liar to stop lying – he must start speaking the truth as well, otherwise he will fall back into his lying ways. It is not enough for the thief to stop stealing – he must begin to labor and do honest work. The man who speaks in foul language must start using words that are edifying, and the angry, bitter, and malicious must replace their attitudes with kindness, compassion, and forgiveness.

Have you ever tried to help your child break a difficult habit? When we were taking away our son’s pacifier, we realized that we would have to replace his old comfort object with something new – it seemed unfair to leave an 18-month old without the thing that used to help him fall asleep. A friend gave him a stuffed gray cat that he immediately fell in love with, and our problem was solved. The pacifier that had become his crutch was now replaced with something positive, and he was successfully able to transition away from dependence on his “paci”. In many ways, we adults are similar – we need to replace our old habits with new, positive ones, otherwise we will not be able to bear the transition.

I am going to spend some time today reflecting on St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, asking God what areas of my life I need to “put away” so that I can “put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.” 

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