Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
I used to carry a lot of bitterness and anger, malice and rage. I cussed as if I was rewarded for doing so and spewed bitter sarcasm as if it was my native tongue. These things walked hand in hand with immorality, lust, evil desires and drunkenness. All the things mentioned in the above verses that bring the wrath of God. I had no intention of angering our Lord, but I’m sure I angered Him mightily. While my intention wasn’t to do so, I can look back now and see how I did, by harboring that anger, which opens the door to all things dark and ungodly.
The anger came from wrongs I’d felt I’d endured. And, honestly, I did endure a lot of wrongs, but at no point did that ever justify my behavior. Never did it give me a free pass to act like a jerk. But I was fooled into believing it did. And, I left a lot of damage in my wake. I hurt myself and other people, time and again, physically, emotionally and spiritually until it seemed as if my only impact on this Earth was a negative one. And I have all too many scars on my fists to serve as landmarks from my road to ruin.
Then, thankfully, God softened my heart and I heard His voice. It was a whisper at first, a small tug that slowly grew until I could ignore it no longer. My anger roiled inside, but was put on hold as I came to grips with the notion that giving in to it was wrong and I needed help and hope.
Then, the whisper turned into a full-blown chorus and I gave my life to Him. I clearly remember the day after I was baptized, when I thought to myself over and over again “Today really is the first day of the rest of my life. I’m a new man, with a new life and new hope.” And thus began the transformation from anger to peace, bitterness to love, lost to saved.
Now I strive to clothe myself in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. I wish it was as easy to do as it is to type out, but I’d be lying if I told you it was. But, with a life filled with the Word, surrounded by people such as yourself, living in hope and love in Christ, I can overcome a past I’d rather forget, knowing full well I shouldn’t forget it as it led me to this moment, this day, where God is using my old life to build the new one; using the experiences wrought in a broken life to do His work in the new one. It’s funny how He can do that. Just more proof that God is good, all the time.
So, if you notice me acting in a way that bears any resemblance to the old me, please speak the truth in love and help me know who I am and whose I am so that I don’t look over my shoulder and focus on the life I left behind.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13