“Man, I look good!” I said to myself as I tried on a new shirt and sport coat at Target this week. I rarely buy new clothes — maybe a couple new shirts each year and some new jeans when the old ones get too “holy” even for our church!
As we continue our study of 1 Peter, the Apostle now helps us get dressed for our new life as Christians. Before we enjoy a glass of pure spiritual milk with our breakfast (2:2), we need to strip off our old clothes (2:1) and “put on Christ” (Rom. 13:14). He writes:
“So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech” (1 Peter 2:1 NLT).
The verb used here for “get rid of” is used for taking off clothing elsewhere in Acts 7:58. We’re called to throw the old behaviors aside, to strip ourselves from the filthy rags of our past and throw them in the laundry bin (repentance). While wearing an ugly sweater to a holiday party may win you some laughs, adorning yourselves with deceitfulness, hypocrisy, jealousy and unkind speech is sure to dampen the mood. Sadly, such traits may fit you for a presidential debate, but you’re certainly not fit for the Kingdom of God in such garb!
Now, sometimes its helpful to not just focus on the negative command to put away certain behaviors, but to focus instead on their opposite. So, here’s my challenge to you this week. Let’s try our best to dress ourselves in the positive Christian traits opposite to these evil behaviors. Let’s not just take the bad off; let’s put the good on!
PUT ON TRUTH. Strip off all deceit. Instead be a person seeking after and rejoicing with the truth. Feast on the truth of Scriptures. Speak the truth to others in love. Stop spinning the truth and start living honestly. This leads naturally to the next garment to put on.
PUT ON AUTHENTICITY. Strip off all hypocrisy. Stop putting up a front and wearing masks to make yourself appear better than you are. Accept your failings and find a safe person to let your guard down and admit you don’t have it all together. Be real. Stop pretending. Be the true you. God doesn’t love the you you want to be; he loves you as you really are — warts and all. Warning: This requires finding a community where its safe to be fully authentic. Sometimes entire organizations (e.g., churches) have a culture of posturing, posing, faking and “playing the part” in order to be accepted. Its not always safe to show your true colors in such places — you’ll be judged or ostracized.
REJOICE IN OTHERS’ SUCCESS. Strip off jealousy. Practice celebrating others’ successes and joys. When your neighbor gets a new car, choose to rejoice with them! When your coworker gets the promotion, whisper a silent prayer to God thanking him for blessing them. It’s harder to resent someone else when you are blessing and praying for them. This is a choice. Choose to tell others you are happy for them the next time you are feeling envious. God will honor your action by beginning to change your heart and freeing you from the slimy grip of envy.
PUT ON KIND SPEECH. Strip off all unkind, slanderous speech. Words are one of the most powerful forces in the galaxy (cf. James 3). Our tongues give us the power to build others up and tear others down. With our tongues we can make great speeches that inspire, or we can destroy another person’s entire reputation. Let’s choose to “tame our tongues” by speaking only words that build people up. Let’s avoid negative words in social media, Facebook, texting and emails. Let’s honor mother’s ancient wisdom: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Even better, commit yourselves to not just putting off unkind speech; but go out of your way this week to daily affirm others with words — a kind note, a love letter, a thoughtful email, or a personal word of encouragement!
As we begin to dress ourselves from this wardrobe of qualities and behaviors, we are sure to be more warmly received at our next party than even the guy in the ugly Christmas sweater!
Also check out my devotional series called Dirty Laundry.