Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? (Colossians 2:20-21 NIV)
I think I can answer Paul’s question. I submit to the world’s rules because I want to look good to the world. In my case I hope it is more likely that I submit to the rules or expectations of the church community I belong to since those are the people I want to impress. It has taken me much time to figure out that this people pleasing tendency is the result of two things that don’t seem related when they are: pride and insecurity. For whatever reason I’m not fully satisfied and secure in my relationship with Jesus. I not only want to feel loved by people, but I want them to think I’m someone special. Since I am a very compliant person it has been relatively easy to keep the rules. It has been tempting to carry this further by creating expectations for others that they cannot live up to. When I do this, and others fail to meet those expectations I feel superior. How would you answer Paul’s question?
The solution to this is simple, but not easy. We must focus on the relationship that is most important and that is our relationship with Jesus. The stronger our connection with Him the more secure we will feel and the more freedom we will experience from the expectations of others.
There is another sin issue that Paul is focused on that must have been an issue for the Colossians and that was sensual indulgence. The New Living Translation translates this phrase as “a person’s evil desires”. I like that because it gets at the root issue. The problem isn’t our behavior, but instead is our desires. This is why behavior modification doesn’t work. Any form of behavior modification is an attempt to use our natural desires to produce the desired behavior. We try to get children who want to move to sit still by promising them candy. This produces the desired behavior as long as the desire for sweets is stronger than the desire to move. Since the desire for sweets is more acceptable to adults we feel we have made a positive difference when we have done nothing to change the child’s desire to move. Our evil desires are what make us so easy to manipulate as adults.
Relationship, a deep intimate relationship, with Jesus is the only thing that will change our desires. “Just say no” is how we normally deal with sin issues of any kind. For the person without Jesus this can have some positive results if their desire to please others is strong enough. The better approach is to say yes to Jesus. Staring at a bowl of M&Ms will not prevent you from eating an M&M. Sitting at Jesus’ feet and focusing on him will make the M&Ms disappear. When we love Jesus the way He loves us our evil desires begin to die.
For my grandchildren:
What do you want? Is that a good thing?