Putting on Christian Love that Leads to Harmony
“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.” (Colossians 3:12-15)
Every day we get dressed with thinking about the clothing that is appropriate for our activities. But for some with afflictions or disabilities, getting dressed is not just about what to put on, but how to put it on. Over the last few days, I have had a pulled muscle in my back, so I am slow and cautious when moving my body in particular ways. The pain makes me aware that putting something on is not always easy. And so it is with the Christian life—it’s pretty challenging to put on the new character that God has given us, his chosen ones. Some Christians may debate, saying that God has already given us Christ’s robe of righteousness, making us new creatures in Christ. I agree, but the passages above are not addressed to our salvation and justification, but to our sanctification. As we live out the eternal life given to us, our sin nature conflicts with our new, godly character, causing tension and strain. It’s hard to move quickly when the body is experiencing strain, which I remember every time I try to bend to the right today.
It’s illogical to assume that living the Christian life is easy, since there are so many admonitions in Scripture about keeping the faith, pressing on, and now, “putting on” the character of Christ. Only someone who believes the Bible is less than authoritative would disagree. Other Christians say that believing Scripture is everything. However, it takes more than agreement with God’s Word to change our character—it takes application and demonstration of its authority over our minds, hearts, and behavior. So we “put on” the character of Christ, as we put on our clothing, thinking about what it is and why we are wearing it. The “why” is answered by Paul—being “God’s chosen ones” and “called” (vs. 12, 15).
What we put on is of great importance, since “In the practice of love, forgiveness, and graciousness, the Christian community is to be a showcase of the reconciliation Christ has brought to the universe…and to individual sinners.”* Understanding we are a body of believers being sanctified together is crucial to appreciate the need for us to have humility, kindness, meekness, patience emanating from compassionate hearts and love for each other. This is active work that unites us, as we are united to Christ, with his peace in our hearts that should rule our character (v. 15). The love of Christ leads to perfect harmony within the body, according to God’s perspective, not ours. We don’t consider offenses, insults, and sins good in any way, but God uses them as opportunities for forgiveness, to reconcile with each other, leading to peace within the body. Colossians 3:13 calls us to forgive each other as God has forgiven us because we hurt each other, either intentionally or unintentionally. Peter reminds us of the need for forgiveness: “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9)
Do you have the peace of Christ ruling in you? If so, who do you need to forgive, even if they are not asking for your forgiveness? Do you need to ask someone for forgiveness? What do you need to “put on” for greater harmony in the body?
* The Reformation Study Bible, Note on Colossians 3:15, Reformation Trust Publishing (Ligonier Ministries), Sanford, Fl., 2015.