Friday, February 3, 2012

Clothes for Your New Life

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. (Colossians 3:12-14)
Paul has shown us that the clothes of our old identity do not belong to the new identity of who we now are in Jesus the Messiah. They must be put off. But he does not leave us with nothing to wear. Now he speaks of what we are to put on, things that reflect our new life in Jesus. But first, he briefly reminds us of that identity: We are “the elect of God, holy and beloved.” Chosen of God. Set apart by God. Dearly loved by God.

Our identity as the elect of God is in Jesus the Messiah. He is the one God has chosen, the one He has anointed, the one He has established to have dominion over the earth. Jesus is the one of whom the Father said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Remember that Paul writes to the believers here as “saints and faithful brethren in Christ.” It is in Jesus the Messiah, the Elect One, that we ourselves are chosen, set apart and dearly loved by God. We are “accepted in the Beloved,” that is, in Jesus (Ephesians 1:6). Not just individually, but all of us together in Him.

These, then, are the kind of clothes we have now for our new life in the Beloved. Notice that, like the list of things we are to put off, these are all about our relationships and how we treat one another. Paul speaks over two dozen times in his letters about the ways we should treat each other, and several times about the ways we should not. (Search Paul’s letters for “one” plus “another.”)
  • Tender mercies. Not merely acts of mercy but an attitude of tenderhearted affection and compassion.
  • Kindness. Gentleness and goodness toward each other.
  • Humility. Not lifting ourselves up and looking down on each other.
  • Longsuffering. Being patient with each other.
  • Bearing with one another. Being tolerant toward each other, putting up with each other even when it is difficult (as indeed it sometimes can be).
  • Forgiving one another. Paul expands on this one, which should tell us something about how important it is. If we have a quarrel with or complaint against anyone, we are to forgive, just as Jesus has forgiven us.
All of these are expressions of love. Love bundles them all together. Jesus said that all the law and the prophets are fulfilled in the command to love God with everything in us and love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40). Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of that. The early gnostic teachers located perfection or completeness in understanding the mysteries, the secret wisdom they brought. But Paul identifies love, the kind that comes from God, the kind that Jesus demonstrated, as the bond of perfection. As we set our hearts to love each other with that kind of self-giving love, we are brought together into completeness and maturity, well-suited to the destiny God has for us.

Focus Questions
  1. Why does Paul spend so much time on how believers should treat each other?
  2. Why does forgiveness receive such prominence in this list?
  3. How do all these things tell us about love?

The Focus of Our Faith
The Focus of Our Faith
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Colosse
Bite-Size Studies Through Colossians
by Jeff Doles

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