Certain things are no longer with us: the horse and buggy, the steam engine, wick lanterns, and Old English. Or at least, if they are still around it is for our amusement and we can decide whether we want them or not. We can choose the car, the jet, the fluorescent, and the modern slang. This is how we sometimes contrast the old and the new.
The new is the modern, the up–to–date, what is recent. For some people it must be what is the latest. For others the old is the ancient, like history, or the obsolete, like the first computer.
Not only words are associated with old, but also certain ideas and concepts that go with them. An old man or an old woman may be referred to in such a way that we show disrespect or ill feeling toward them. In many countries there are homes for the aged, in itself a condescending term, which are called old peo ple’s homes. It is more polite to refer to the elderly, but the point is made, even if the word is more dignified. Such people are often thought to be senile, with their thoughts not quite as logical as the younger people.
For a young person it is folly to be called old–fashioned, reflecting as it does someone who cannot keep up–to–date. And of course the worse thing for a woman is to become an old maid and tell stories known as old wives’ tales. Such tales are explanations that suggest exaggeration or lies.
On the other hand, to be up–to–date is to be with–it, perhaps wearing the current clothes and knowing the most recent movies or songs. Girls, especially want to be stylish and modern. Some times, however, things which are old–fashioned can become the “in” thing, such as farm–style cooking or weddings.
The truly new is something which is different or unique. The advertiser who claims that the “new new Fanta” should be bought is using the word twice to claim freshness. Some things which are new may be negative. A new person on the job may not have much experience and be quite immature in his actions and naive in his thoughts. What is new can even be raw, like new bananas or beans.
We find the word new in newspaper, or the news on the wireless, but it is often not new at all. It is the same old story of problems and difficult situations throughout the world. What is the news of today is often old news tomorrow.
During the 1930’s in the United States one of the presidents had what he called a New Deal, something for everyone which was to promote economic recovery and social reform. Politicians often are able to come up with a new promise for the voters. Educators, likewise, talked of the new math which was to take the student into the modern age. There is even a religion, referred to as the New Age, which promises more than any politician can deliver.
When we read the word old in the Bible, it is usually in its traditional and expected sense: it refers to the age of someone. It was what Abraham and Sarah thought of when God promised a child in their old age. One of the signs of old age is gray hair, and in PNG and many countries, such people have respect. In other more so–called contemporary societies the old are expected to make way for the young.
When God commanded the system of sacrifices in the Old Testament he wanted lambs and goats without spot or blemish. He did not want some worn–out animal, nor does he want other things that are not fresh. For example, he asked for new grain and new wine for the festivals, representing freshness and flavor. But he did not, and he does not want, new gods or new teaching that is contrary to his own.
Often the writers in the Bible talked of the new songs which God had given them and how he had promised to pour out his new Spirit upon his people. Further, some day his people will have new names in the new heavens and earth.
The writer St. Paul used the contrast of old and new to talk about the way people lived before they were Christians and how they should behave once they became Christians. In his terms the old self is the old way of thinking and it should be put to death because it is no longer of any use or help if we want to live as a Christian should. It is something which belongs to the past, and as such it should be dated, dead, outmoded, and even ex tinct. Sometimes Paul calls this old nature the old man, something like a dinosaur which we know existed because we have some evidence of it, although it is now useless. These old ways are to be taken off, like clothes. You know what old clothes are like if you continue to wear them for a long time: they smell badly, and so does the old self.
Sometimes we want to turn over a new leaf, meaning that we are not happy with the way things have gone in our lives and we would like to change. We may be tempted to try out various kinds of living styles or beliefs until we find one that we like. There is, according to Jesus, only one way, a new and living way, to God the Father and eternal life. He provides the newness through the gift of his Spirit to live with us.
So we are not to merely look new as Christians, but we are to have new attitudes and new values which are based on the commandments and example of Jesus.