Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV)
Note: The following post was first published on 23rd July 2019, under the heading ‘Clothe yourselves’. With the continuing coronavirus pandemic, it seems pertinent to remind ourselves of the virtues that should, as followers of Christ, be clearly evident in our lives.
Reading: Colossians 3:1-17
Consider: In Paul’s letter to the believers at Colossae, he encourages them to set their hearts and minds on things above (3:1-2). We must understand that Paul is not saying that it is wrong to be concerned about everyday matters, but that the new life in Christ is to be characterised by a greater concern for spiritual matters.
Paul uses emotive language to describe the turning away from the old life to the new. In Colossians 3:5 he says: Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature. He then goes on to mention some specific issues that characterised the former life: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed. The phrase ‘putting to death’ might seem dramatic, but it does convey that overcoming our human nature requires a concerted act of will on our part. The list of things Paul tells his readers to turn their back on continues in verses 8-9 with anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language and lying being mentioned. Why should we turn our back on our human nature? Paul puts it this way: ‘You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived’ (3:7), ‘… since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self …’ (3:9-10) and ‘… as God’s chosen people’ (v12).
In Colossians 3:12-17 Paul goes on to describe the virtues that should characterise this new life in Christ. The list includes: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and forgiveness, all bound together with love. This should remind us of the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23.
I like Paul’s use of the words ‘clothe yourselves’ (v12). This gives the idea that just as our clothing is clearly visible to those around us, so too should the virtues we display as Christians. Paul’s words could also be rendered ‘dress yourself’, conveying the idea that we cannot just sit back impassively waiting for God to develop these characteristics in us. It is an act of will on our part to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patient, forgiving and loving.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus (3:17).
Pray: Father, we pray that your church would be a shining beacon at this time of crisis in the world. May our lives clearly display the virtues of Christ in a needy world. Amen