A few years ago there was the story of the hiker, Aaron Ralston, who cut off his arm in order to save his life. His right arm became trapped under an 800lb boulder while hiking alone. For days he lay dying, unable to get free, unable to be found by searchers. His arm was pretty much dead… and if he didn't get free from it he would soon be dead himself. He finally got to a point in his mind where he knew he had to do something drastic. In order to live, he had to cut off his arm. Aaron Ralston said that his decision gave him life.
It's an amazing story. And I couldn't help thinking about it as I read through Colossians 3:5 today. Paul talks about getting rid of the part of you that leads to death. Jesus also talks about it in Matthew 5:30. These passages talk about sin, not boulders… But as I read these passages I couldn't get the image of Aaron's struggle with the boulder out of my mind.
Paul says in Colossians that we are dead in our sin. And because of that, we should get rid of those things that keep us trapped in sin = death.
Too often we read passages like this like they are a list of rules. This just can't be true. In the section just before this, in Colossians chapter 2, Paul talks about how "rules" are useless and just create problems. In Christ we are free, Paul says. And because we are free from rules, we shouldn't live enslaved to the rules of sin. It's that simple, and yes, that mind-transforming. Christ is your real life, Paul says (Col 3:4). Sin is not your real life. It is fake. It is enticingly false. Sin is a way of thinking you are alive, but it's all a falling trap. Your real life is free, Paul says. So cut off what traps you.
In Colossians 3:5 Paul uses the word, nekrosate (nek-row-saw-tae), which means "make dead" or "kill completely". Paul encourages us to kill off the influence of sexual sin (pornea), of impurity, of lust (pathos), of evil desire, of greed, and of idolatry. This isn't a list of heaviness or negativism. It is a reminder of the things that can get us stuck. But the Good News is that we don't have to be stuck by them! In Christ we are free. In Christ we are a new creation. In Christ we live abundantly. So why would we be satisfied with being trapped? It just makes freeing sense that in our attitude and actions we should be willing to actually make dead the things that will, left unchecked, be the death of us. It's a hard step of faith, and it's a hard decision, and it's an attitude of desperation, and it might be excruciating. But we must decide to cut off what so easily entangles us and what slowly leads to our death.
Hmmm. Just a thought this morning.