Colossians 3:12-14. 12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 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. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
The goal of our union with Christ is that we be transformed into the image of Christ. To help us understand what this means, Paul’s letter to the Colossians has taken us high into the heavenly realms of wisdom and understanding about Christ.
Statements like this:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
For [in] him all things were created – all things were created through him and for him.
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell
And later this:
to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ
[God] disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in [Christ].
And of course this:
but Christ is all, and in all.
But now it’s time to descend from the Christological clouds, as glorious as they are, and land our feet on the solid ground of day to day living in Christ. What does it mean to be renewed into the knowledge of his image? What does it mean to put on the new self? What does it mean to be like Jesus?
Deep, gut wrenching, love. The agape love of God himself toward his beloved, chosen ones. Love that looks like weakness, but that actually requires the immense strength that only resurrection power can give. Love that is worthy of our new position in Christ as the new self. Love that can only come from above, from the Image of the invisible God, the firstborn of creation. Love that expresses the fullness of God. Love that disarmed all God’s enemies and sent them reeling into the abyss of shame.
Love that binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Notice Paul doesn’t say, “Above all put on truth.” No. In fact, the “Colossian heresy” that sparked this letter was centered around finding a higher level of knowledge. A knowledge that would propel them past being merely human. But the Christian life is never about moving beyond our humanity. It’s about imaging Christ IN our humanity, with love as the center of our personhood. And so Paul calls for love as the binding cement of the church. Our central virtue that, like Christ himself, holds everything together. Love must guide all we are and all we do – even our search for truth. Christ IS truth. And the Truth IS love.
BTW- Haven’t we all seen the division that can come when churches are bent on upholding truth without the glue of love? Haven’t we all known Christians that spend all their time in search of knowledge, bouncing from Bible study to Bible study, but never choosing to live in a community that requires anything more than showing up and taking notes?
But this is not the life of Christ in us. The life of Christ in us is the love of Christ in us. A love that can actually hold together a group of people so radically different that it makes no logical sense that they be together. “Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free” (3:11), all bound together in love. Not a sentimental, rainbows and butterflies, kind of love, but a love that must choose often to bear with one another and forgive. A love that will choose daily to put on compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
Compassion – (literally “bowels of mercy”) Choose to feel the gut wrenching pain and sorrow of others.
Kindness – Choose to meet needs.
Humility – Choose to set aside the self.
Meekness – Choose to make concessions.
Patience– Choose to endure in the face of being wronged.
Bearing with – (literally “large hearted”) Choose to open your heart to others.
Forgiving – Choose to release others from their indebtedness to you.
Clearly this new family of God (his chosen ones) is going to get messy. Clearly we aren’t always going to feel like joining hands and singing Kumbaya. Clearly this thing called church requires a power beyond what we can muster on our own. Resurrection power. The power of God’s love in us now flowing out toward others. As we have been forgiven by Christ, now we too forgive as Christ. As we have been loved by Christ, now we too love as Christ.
“To live is Christ” is to put on his love above everything else, for his love alone can bind us all together in perfect harmony. The harmony of the Trinity. So today return to the love of God. See the gut wrenching love of Christ for you on the cross, and let it enlarge your heart.
How are you relating to others in your church? Are you putting on love?
You in Christ
Look at the list of virtues in our passage again. How do they describe Christ’s love for you?
Christ in you
Which of the virtues listed above do you want to see Christ live out in you today?