PUTTING ON CHRIST
December 29, 2013
Today’s reading: Colossians 3:12-21
We Christians are “God’s chosen ones” (v.12b) and we “were also called in one body” (v.15b), which is the body of Christ on earth. The body of Christ is the whole Church and also our individual parishes. We are called to be in one body to live His life and to do His work. As such, given the privilege, we have the responsibility to act in certain specific ways. As God’s chosen ones, we are to be “holy and beloved” (v.12c). As members of the body of Christ, we are to manifest the virtue of holiness and the posture of being beloved one to the other. These are necessary so that we reflect Christ and so that we can effectively serve him in unity as one body.
We are to “put on then” (v.12a) certain virtues and attitudes. We are to be clothed in them. When people see us or interact with us, they notice the clothes we wear. Our clothes, in modern consumer parlance, define us. What we wear reflects our personality and character. So what is inside manifests itself outside. What are the aspects of this clothing, of being holy and beloved (v.12)?
Now among brethren in community there will always be differences–personality, preferences, directions, ways we relate, ways to serve. At times these can lead to disagreements which can then lead to conflict and division. Thus, aside from being very aware of these negative aspects, we need to add certain attitudes to our clothing. Note that these attitudes grow in stages with increasing intensity.
* “bearing with one another” (v.13a). Have patience, tolerance, forbearance. Put up with the shortcoming of others.
* “forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another” (v.13b). We do not just bear with one another, but we forgive each other. Others may do us wrong. We do not just passively bear with it, but we actively forgive. We do not just quietly bear the wrong, but we wipe the slate clean.
* “as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.” (v.13c). We do not just forgive, but we forgive the way Jesus forgave us. We did Jesus grievous wrong as we sent him to the cross because of our sins, but he forgave us. Now he tells us to forgive others. Given that what we consider grievous wrong against us would just be petty compared to what we did to God Himself, then we too should forgive, in the example of Jesus himself.
* “And over all these put on love” (v.14a). We do not just forgive as Jesus forgave us, but we love as Jesus tells us to love one another. Some may forgive but still hold negative feelings. Some may forgive but feel they just had no choice because God conditions His forgiveness of them on their forgiveness of others. So we not only let go as we forgive, but we put on as we love.
* “that is, the bond of perfection.” (v.14b). We not only love with imperfect human love, but we love as God loves, as we strive to be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect.
We know that God actually calls us to perfection. Now it will be precisely in the body, as we live together and serve together, that we will be tried and tested and purified. It will be as we relate in the body that we cannot just give our assent to teachings on love and forgiveness, but will be confronted with the necessity of actually living these out. When we do strive to live these out, there will be great positive consequences for us.
* Peace! “And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body.” (v.15a). Whatever happens, however others treat us, we will be at peace, knowing that we are doing God’s will.
* Thanksgiving! “And be thankful.” (v.15b). We become focused on positives rather than negatives, on blessings rather than woes. We look to what God does for us rather than what we have to endure from His other children. Being grateful can keep us mentally and emotionally healthy and happy always.
* Growing in Biblical wisdom! “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another” (v.16a). Facing difficult situations with our brethren, we look not to human wisdom but to God’s wisdom. What do I say; how do I act; how do I relate? We search the scriptures. We allow God’s word to form us. We are challenged by God’s radical word on mercy and forgiveness.
* Worship! “singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (v.16b). Our thanksgiving and Biblical wisdom lead us to deeper worship. Putting on the heart and mind of God deeply affects us in our words, thoughts and deeds. We grow into spiritual offerings to God. Nothing else matters, but for creatures to worship their Creator, for subjects to adore their King, for disciples to give praise to their Lord and God.
Reaching this point, we are where God wants us. He has allowed difficulties and challenges to happen in our human relationships, especially among brethren, The body has become the training ground, and the altar of purification. What we learn from the scriptures has been put to the test. Since we are children of God, we were put into the body of Christ. Conversely, but equally true, we have been put into the body of Christ in order that we might truly live as children of God.
The final result? We live only for God. “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus” (v.17a). We belong totally to God. We seek to please only God (and in so doing please others as well). We seek to be humble servants serving only the Master.
None of these are grudging acts. We truly are at peace. We truly sing for joy. We truly have put on Christ. Therefore, we actually can think of no other posture but that of always “giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (v.17b).
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God bless you all.
“For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.” (Phil 1:21)