Sunday, December 18, 2011

"Put On," Underwear (Colossians 3:12-15)

[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. [15] 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 ESV)

Rather than encouraging attempts at self-improvement through rules and prohibitions; Paul has instructed believers to remember that they are dead to their old, sinful behaviors. Instead, having risen in Christ, they are to take on His characteristics. If you carry the “put on” metaphor forward, these are the undergarments. That which is closest to us, that which shapes who we are and how others see us. This is not a costume that hides our true nature.

The list here is nine “items” long. It reminds one a bit of the nine fruit of the Spirit qualities in Galatians. Only five overlap, so together you could make a list of 13, but that is not exhaustive.

The first is “bowels of compassion” which means having a merciful disposition. The second is translated kindness here and meekness in Galatians, but it means showing grace towards others. That is followed by a call to be (ever unpopular by human standards) humble. We then get meekness here but gentleness in Galatians, followed by patience. Practicing these five qualities is something our culture looks down on these days, but strangely enough they are all universally seen as the qualities of good, well liked people.

The next three qualities describe the way we are to treat others: with forgiveness or tolerance, love, and peace. We tolerate each other in our differences and weaknesses. (That doesn’t extend to accepting just any teaching willy-nilly as we will see shortly.) We live in peace with others. Above all, our interaction with all is governed not by laws but rather love. What do others need? Finally, our pervasive attitude in life should be one of thankfulness.

(If you want to extend this list out to a full 13, you could include a zeal for goodness, a constant joy in everything, unwavering faith and trust, and the discipline to govern oneself.)

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