Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things….As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:2,12-14
This past weekend, I noticed I had written a date and time on a napkin on my desk with no other details. Fantastic.
I still don’t know who I was supposed to meet or where I was supposed to be yesterday at 9 am, but if it was you and you’re reading this, I’m sorry. I wish I could say this kind of absentmindedness is an isolated incident. I can’t.
One time I went to pick up a few things at the grocery store and used self checkout. I decided to get $40 cash while I was there. But it seems I never actually took the cash out of the cash dispenser thingy, and didn’t realize it until I got home. Surprisingly, it was not still there later.
Maybe it’s middle-age, maybe it’s all the Coke Zero I drink, or maybe it’s both. All I know is, I spend a lot of time standing in the middle of rooms in my house trying to figure out why I went there.
What I’m saying is that I lose focus. Day-to-day activities become rote, and my mind grows numb. When that happens, anything that veers from the norm in my routine can easily get forgotten. If I don’t intentionally set my mind on the unusual tasks and activities in my day, I end up forging ahead with what is usual, instead.
I don’t think any of us intend to live according to the earthly nature. We don’t receive grace and choose to follow Christ and at the very same time think about all the unholy things we plan to keep doing, too.
But we lose focus. Our sin nature is what is common and natural. Immorality, impurity, evil desires, greed, idolatry, anger, lies…these and other unholy things make up our default setting. Unless we intentionally set our minds on things above, we grow numb and just accept the propensity to sin as part of our lives.
I think that’s why Paul said to put the earthly nature to death. He didn’t say put it aside or try to avoid it or even maim it; he said to get rid of the thing. And then he told us how.
The answer that begins in verse 12 isn’t what we might expect. It’s not a list of verse 5 antonyms, like sexual morality and purity. If it were, we might think that our good behavior earns us right relationship with God; that if we walk a certain moral line, we’re holy. It doesn’t, and we’re not.
Instead, we’re told to clothe ourselves with kindness, compassion, humility, gentleness, patience, love…the same things identified in Galatians 5 as fruit of the Spirit. In other words, put to death what is common in your life and in the world, and set your mind on what is uncommon – things above, by daily submitting your heart and mind to the Holy Spirit’s control.