Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Colossians 3.12-15
It is dangerous to take on the commands of Jesus without the heart of Jesus; this has led to abuse and bullying throughout church history. The specific rules that Jesus lays out assume the presence of the Spirit and identity with the gospel. Without this, the law is just another tool for people to get beaten down with; the gift of confession and repentance become a dangerously unsafe proposition. It is essential that whenever we talk about the HOW of the Christian life that we also focus on the WHY. Colossians 3 gives us a good idea of the how and why together.
PUT ON THEN as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience
The Christian life is about being something other than who we naturally are. Defaulting to our basic instinct is no longer our reaction. Instead, we must strive to become, or put on, the character that best resembles our God. We do this, not to earn His love, but because we already have it. We become more like God out of gratitude. Our lives must be God-focused.
BEARING WITH ONE ANOTHER
It isn’t just about us. Seeing the overwhelming grace and love shown to us, and knowing the struggle that we are all in: to rid ourselves of sin and put on holiness, makes us dependent. We have been given ‘one another’ to fight beside, to support, and to lean on. Our lives must be others-focused.
FORGIVING EACH OTHER as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive
The only way to work with others is to learn to forgive. Others will fail you, sin against you, and get in your way. If you allow the failings of others to define your relationship with them, you will not be able to find the benefit. Your life will be about working in spite of people rather than working with them. Our lives must be grace-focused.
PUT ON LOVE which binds everything together in perfect harmony
If you stop at forgiveness you will never experience community. To learn to put up with people does no cause unity, it creates tolerance and coexistence. The Christian life is about being unified deeply to other people so that their burdens become yours and their successes are a shared joy. To get here, we have to be looking for opportunities to serve one another, actively. Our lives must be love-focused.
LET THE PEACE OF CHRIST RULE IN YOUR HEARTS to which indeed you were called in one body
None of this is possible if we continue to see ourselves as distinct from everyone else; if we think of our life as separate and our own. Instead, the gospel reveals that we have been given the new identity of body. We are one thread in the tapestry of Jesus. There is a great peace to pursuing the WE rather than the ME. Our lives must be body-focused.
All of this comes down to recognizing what we are part of. We are not simply giving up and sacrificing our rights as an act of giving; we are responding to the reality that we have already been given everything. The gospel creates a deep thankfulness, one that is willing to go through the work of loving, forgiving, and bearing with one another. It all flows from what Jesus has done for us. Nothing good in this life exists apart from Him. As we see beauty, we see Him. As we experience blessings, we experience Him. As we become one body, unified with others who He has made His, we are becoming more like Him.