Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12 NIV)
When we think of the pattern of the early church, we generally go to Acts 2:42 and the activities listed there: teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. I’m certain that the Colossian church was doing all these things. Paul wants them to go deeper, so he focuses on the attitudes that will make each of those activities beneficial and God honoring.
Who would you prefer to get a hug from: someone dressed in a suit of medieval armor or someone dressed in sweat clothes? This is assuming that the sweat clothes are clean and not drenched in sweat. The choice is easy. Paul gives us a vivid picture of the attitudes that make us approachable and desirable to be close to. Looking through the list notice that each one of the things Paul mentions has an ‘other’ orientation to it.
- • Compassion – someone is experiencing suffering and I am emotionally moved to do something about it.
• Kindness – treating another person in a way that benefits them.
• Humility – placing the needs of another person above my own needs. This could also be thinking about the other person more than I’m thinking about myself.
• Gentleness – a soft touch and soft words.
• Patience – willingness to let another person move at their own pace and not mine.
Paul is writing to a group of believers that lives in Colossae. The group as a group is to be defined by these attitudes. This will require that everyone is characterized by these things as well. It is always interesting to me that the New Testament writers never measure a church by attendance. They always use measures that in some way describe how much the church looks like and acts like Jesus.
I think this means that every church should be more focused on the needs of its neighbors than its own internal needs. Unfortunately, just as I am generally more focused on my own needs, the churches I have been a part of are characterized by an internal focus. It would be tempting at this point to blame the church but blaming won’t change anything. We each must get up each day looking forward to putting on these new clothes anticipating the opportunities God has prepared for us in the day ahead.
For my grandchildren:
Which of the five pieces of clothing do you need to put on today?