The bible character Paul was not a man who simply sat around and waited for things to happen. He actively sought out how to follow Christ more clearly and that active pursuit is exactly what brought about transformation in his life. We must do the same thing to bring about any new difference in our marriages. We must be active. As you read through the following scripture, pay attention to the action verbs - what we are being told to do:
Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things - anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the OLD practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. Colossians 3:5-9
Whoa. Paul is definitely saying something to us. Reread the last few verses - Paul is telling us that what we are called to do is not of the OLD. The ways in which we are intended to live has already been accomplished. All too often we feel like we have to drudge through what life hands us and make it to the other side. Only when we get to the other side, life hands us something else. Our marriages are the same way. We live our marriage as if they are old. The sacrifice that Christ made on the cross brought about newness to EVERY aspect of our lives - marriage included.
Old marriages look like what Paul describes in the beginning of the passage - fornication (unhealthy), impurity, evil desire, and greed. These marriages are self-centered and in that individualistic perspective evil, greed, and impurity are the aspects that we feel like we have to learn to tolerate. This type of marriage is exhausting. This is not the type of marriage the Lord intended us to live.
Christ's death on the cross did something so miraculous we are not even quite capable to grasp all that it meant. His death and resurrection completely did away with the OLD and made a way for us to live completely in the NEW. As we take hold of this reality, all aspects of our lives begin to thrive in that newness. These aspects of new life then look like positive talk, selflessness, abounding love, and grace that knows no end. But, how does this happen?
N.T. Wright comments on this living of life in newness as an individual's ability to become transformed by the renewal of the mind. He comments:
The main thing to notice in the Colossians passage is that none of these things "come naturally." Even for the Christian [or marriage] this is not going to be so, certainly to begin with. The point of virtue [the transformative pursuit] is that eventually, as a person's character becomes more fully formed, such things may indeed begin to "come naturally." But the steps it takes to get to that point involve hard decisions and hard actions, choices that run counter to the expectations, aspirations, desires, and instincts with which every human being come equipped.
Wright is saying that as we draw closer to the mind of Christ, we experience a change - a transformation. The closer we strive to be to Christ, the more natural living life out of the newness promised in the cross of Christ becomes. As we draw to the mind of Christ, we become something we could not have been otherwise - something new. As we become something new, so too do the aspects of life we chose to participate - like marriage.
We are a new people. We should start living like we are. And the only way we can experience this is to take and active role in the whole hearted pursuit of Jesus and the newness that is already ours.