"Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth." (Colossians 3:5-9)Paul has just exhorted us to "Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth" (Colossians 3:2) and to help us, he enumerates some of those things that are "on the Earth." First on the list is sexual immorality. The Greek word used here, and which is most often translated as "fornication", shares the same Greek root as our word for Pornography and encompass all things sexual that occur outside of the bonds of marriage. Second is impurity which is anything that would leave a stain on our conscience; anything rendering us guilty and our conscience aware of its guilt. Third is passion. We often think of passion as a good thing, something that compels us towards a goal or desire, but this word carries with it the notion of pain; pain when we do not obtain what we desperately desire. This is the passion for something we cannot, or should not have. A passion that troubles our soul and drives us further into desire for what is not ours. Forth is evil desires. This is a desire for what is forbidden, especially sexually. This is closest to the older English word of Concupiscence. Finally there is greed or, more precisely, avarice. Intense greed, desire, and longing for things of this world is in fact idolatry for it distracts what should be our affections towards God towards a desire for created things; putting things before God.
All these things, and many others, draw the wrath and ire of God. However, before we look outward in judgment on the world, we must first realize that Paul is talking to us. We too, along with the world, have trafficked in these things. We too were at one time children of disobedience; children of wrath. However, now God has give us, and the world, the opportunity to strip these things from our lives. Our identity with Christ in our own death, burial, and resurrection has set us free to rid our lives of such pursuits and, instead, to pursue the things that are above. However, such a transformation takes our partnership with God. Darby translates this verse as, "Put to death therefore your members which [are] upon the earth." (Colossians 3:5 Darby) God has given us new birth and a new life in Christ. However, it remains for us to conquer our flesh and to bring it into conformity with our new life in Christ. No amount of prayer can accomplish those things which we have been commanded to do ourselves. This is something we must do by the power and grace which God has already amply supplied. We are the ones who must mortify the flesh.
Paul continues with a second list. However, while the first list relates to our desire for worldly things, this second list pertains to how we relate to those around us. All these things that Paul has listed are sins, not because they hurt God, but because they hurt others who are made in the image of God. All these things are sins because they flow not out of love but out of something dark and malevolent inside. Love wold never do these things but evil would. God is calling us to love His creation the way He does and to treat them the way He does. When we do, when we live in conformance to the ways of God, then we live life as it was meant to be lived. However, when we live contrary to the love of God for His creation, then we live lives of sin and evil is the outcome of our life.
In the Gospel we have been given back our free-will and, with our free-will, we have free-choice. How will we use this new power to chose in our lives today? Will we choose to continue living as we always have or will we choose a new way of living? Will we choose to put aside our old way of living that we might live like Christ or will we choose to continue to live as the world, knowing the outcome that awaits them? The choice is ours.