Colossians 3:12-17 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Have you ever heard something that starts like this? As long as you live under my roof, you will…Every family has standards and expectations for its members, right? God also has expectations for His children, not because He is a rules-based God, but because He is a relationship-based God. He wants us not only to have good relationships with people, but He wants us to see it as our responsibility to foster good relationships with all people. Relationship is influence, and we need to make sure we are pursuing great relationships in order to have a great impact for the Kingdom of God.
Put on Kingdom attitudes.
Paul says here in verse 12 “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” and he says in verse 14 that “Love will keep us together.” Well, something like that. What he is saying is that love has to be the motivating factor for every other virtue or character trait. Our love for God compels us to be compassionate and kind, humble and gentle and patient with people. I mean, haven’t we all be on the receiving end of those things from God? We have all needed those things from God. We have all benefited from experiencing those things. I know I have. Because I know how good it feels to receive those things, I should have a desire to share those same opportunities with those who haven’t.
Here’s what I know from personal experience: You can’t grow as a person without compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience being demonstrated toward you. If we want people to “get there” with Jesus, if we want people to follow after Him and to grow in His likeness, they can’t do it without experiencing the attitudes that enable them to be a work in progress.
It would be great if every person who heard the Good News of Jesus was automatically mature in Christ and 100% transformed to act exactly like Jesus overnight, but I have never met one person for whom that was the case. It was as Jesus spent time with the disciples, modeling the right attitudes and teaching them about the right attitudes that they became people who cared about what matters in the Kingdom of God.
Think about these characteristics: Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Which is the hardest for you to display? Which is the easiest?
I think we are going to have one of two responses when we see someone in trouble. We will either be annoyed or we will be moved to do something to help. Which are you? The late Colonel Sanders (of Kentucky Fried Chicken) was on an airplane when an infant screamed and would not stop even though the mother and flight attendants tried every trick they could think of. Finally the Colonel asked if he could hold the baby. He gently rocked it to sleep. Later a passenger said, “We all appreciate what you did for us.” Colonel Sanders replied, “I didn’t do it for us, I did it for the baby.”
Are we moved to do something only when it benefits us or is our heart moved for the one who is crying out for help, for the one who needs comforted and soothed, for the one who needs to be reassured that everything will be alright?
After compassion, Paul mentions kindness. A compliment, a courtesy, an open door, an extension of friendship—how much does kindness really even cost us? Many centuries ago, a certain young man from a rural setting went to live in a large city and fell in with the wrong crowd He lived a wild and selfish life, becoming involved in many hurtful things which almost destroyed him But he heard a preacher one day and though he did not particularly appreciate his preaching, he was struck by the man and He went to hear him again, and soon that preacher was able to lead him to Christ. That young man has become famous as the great St Augustine. This is what Augustine wrote of Ambrose, pastor of the cathedral in Milan: “I began to love him, not at first as a teacher of the truth, which I despaired of finding in the church, but as a fellow creature who was kind to me. “ What an open door kindness can he!
When your heart is moved with compassion, kindness will move you to action. As many of you were, I was moved by the thought of kids being home from school and in need of lunch this past week. There was no way I could figure out how to feed every child in Putnam County, but I couldn’t let that stop me from doing something, from doing what I could. And many of you helped me as you prepared lunches and bagged lunches and helped me deliver. 12 people had lunch on Tuesday and 20 people had lunch on Wednesday because of compassion and kindness.
Humility and gentleness are listed next. I think they go together. When we think we want to “give people a piece of our mind,” we need to remember that arguing and name calling and belittling won’t change anyone’s mind. It will just drive a wedge and cause people to dismiss you. Humility reminds us to listen. We don’t know it all. Gentleness gives people confidence that we are for them. It helps them trust us. They don’t have to question our motives or worry that we will take advantage of them or think less of them if they are vulnerable enough to share what is going on. You can’t get to a deeper level with people by being domineering, condescending, and arrogant. We all need to remember that any one of us on any given day is capable of failure. We all are frail. We all have times of weakness. Humility and gentleness remind us that we are all human beings in this life together.
We have all needed help. There is no such thing as a self-made man or woman. We have all gotten it wrong. We have all questioned if we are good enough, smart enough, or talented enough to pursue our dreams. Our gentleness will let people know that it is OK to have doubts and to ask questions. Don’t we want people asking questions? Isn’t that one way we gain access into people’s lives to assist them, to mentor them, to teach them and to train them? One sure way we will cut off those opportunities is to be heavy-handed and dogmatic. You can’t lead someone with aggression. You can command them, but you can’t lead them. We are to lead people to Jesus and the best way to live, not compel them by harshness and by “showing them whose boss.”
Paul says that patience is also important. Part of patience on our part means that we take the time to teach and explain things and not just expect people to automatically know how to live, how to handle their emotions, how to show respect, how to be responsible, or how to love Jesus. Maybe some of the impatience we possess is a result of my generation, for example, not taking the time needed to talk, to answer questions or to teach the skills that some are lacking. Every adult in this room was once a teenager. You had to figure some things out the hard way or at least in time. Let’s not expect the emerging generation to be little adults at 15. Kids today have a lot of pressure. Perhaps if there was more patience being shown, and by that I mean, more attention being given by those who are mature, more life lessons being taught, they might be growing up with a greater sense of purpose and be more grounded in what is really right and wrong.
The second thing I take away from this passage is in regards to Paul’s words to bear with one another. There are times when we simply have to:
Put up with each other.
We live in a society that is quick to discard people. We have talked about how the lack of concern for life in our culture plays into devaluing life and people in general. Relationships are easily tossed. People will casually, without looking back, de-friend you on social media. They can hear a political comment or read a post that they don’t like on Facebook and decide to discontinue not only a relationship with that person, but leave a church over those kinds of matters. Where is the Christian witness in any of that? There is a lot of dirty laundry aired about people on social media in order to make sure their “side” of the story is told when there is a relational divide. How does that help anything?
Maybe those are extreme examples of this point, but what about the person who just rubs you the wrong way? You don’t have to invite them to your home for a meal and buy a Christmas gift for them, but could you get along when the opportunity presents itself? Does there have to be a cold shoulder? Do you have to come up with an excuse not to attend the event so that you don’t have to “deal” with someone?
I’m not talking about people that are harmful to you. I’m also not talking about being soft on or tolerating sin. But I think we have become quick to decide that because someone challenges us or doesn’t think like us or is different from us or whose personality is one we think is “quirky” or when we think someone is drama and just wears us out, we think we will just keep our distance…when we make those decisions, often we are missing out on some relationships that would be good for us and good for them if we would risk hanging in there. I guess that all sounds a bit vague, and I don’t have any concrete examples in my mind as I share this, but I just felt God said, “Put it in there. They need to hear it.” So I did! 🙂
Here’s the truth: Every one of us is weird. Look at your neighbor and tell them, “You are weird.” Now say, “If you will put up with me, I will put up with you.” I’ll just leave it there and let the Holy Spirit add what He wants to.
Paul goes on to say in verse 13 that we need to forgive each one just as God has forgiven us. In that regard I would say you need to:
Put offenses behind you.
There is nothing positive about un-forgiveness. Un-forgiveness chains you to the hurt and pain. It will raise your blood pressure. It will lead you to gossip and tear people down. It will cause you to miss out on events that you really want to attend. It will cause division between you and people you aren’t even mad at. If I could find one helpful or holy thing to say about un-forgiveness, I would try to help you out, but I can’t.
I think Paul is telling us that we need to be as generous with people as God has been with us. God acted in forgiveness toward us first. God, through Jesus, reached out to us when we didn’t deserve it, when we weren’t even open to receiving Him. You may find yourself offering forgiveness to someone who tells you they don’t need your forgiveness or want your forgiveness or that they don’t care that you are offering it because they want nothing to do with you. That’s OK. It will put you in good company. You will be like Jesus.
When some people hurt you, they didn’t even know they were doing it. When some people hurt you, it was because they were hurting themselves and they didn’t have the capacity to make a better choice. When some people hurt you, it was because they were looking for a way to save themselves. Have you ever found yourself in those situations? When you learn that you have hurt someone and you sure didn’t mean to, it crushed you to know how it made them feel. You would give anything to be able to have a do-over. You would give anything to repair what has been broken. When someone is generous with you and tells you it is OK and not to worry about it or give another thought to it or when they take time to talk to you so that you two can get through it rather than live with distance and awkwardness, aren’t you so thankful? Then why not be that for someone else?
And those people who are mean? Those people who are malicious? Those people who seem to get joy out of making life miserable for others? Those people who are self-absorbed, emotionally deficit and insensitive or those who are destructive to themselves and others because of addictions and strongholds in their life, could you ask God for the capacity to forgive them whether they deserve it or not? Isn’t that what Jesus did on the cross? “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing?”
What if your forgiveness became the kind of experience that enabled someone to see what God’s forgiveness was like? Wouldn’t it be worth it all? I have said we are never more like Jesus than when we are suffering or serving, and it is true, but let’s add a third thing in there. To forgive is to be like Jesus.
Look at Colossians 3:15 again: 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
When we put on Kingdom attitudes, when we put up with people, and when we put offenses behind us, I think we are going to experience peace in our hearts. And peace gives us a sense of thanksgiving, a sense of gratefulness that supersede any other earthly experience.
The last thing I think the Apostle Paul says is to Put life-giving things in front of you. Listen again to verse 16: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
I would say that the Word of God and the Worship of God are life-giving. The Word of God will fill our minds with the right things, and the worship of God will keep our minds in the right place.
There is nothing you face that you can’t overcome by the Word of God and through the worship of God. Nothing. Both will require your mind which means you can get a break from all that is hard about life and all that creates worry or fear. If you are focused on the Word and worship you won’t have space for things that can bring you down.
Notice the phrase Paul used when he talked about the Word of God. He said to let it dwell in you richly. God’s Word needs to live in us. It needs to be at home in us. We need to be comfortable with it, used to it. It needs to be an every day kind of thing. Where you dwell is where you take rest, right? You need to let God’s Word dwell in you in order that you can live a life of rest. Where you dwell is where you get ready for the next day, right? You need to let God’s Word prepare you for tomorrow.
Then Paul said you are to let it dwell in you RICHLY. We are encouraged to gorge ourselves on the Word of God, to feast on it, to ingest it constantly and fully. A once-a-week exposure will give you a once-a-week kind of strength, but if you expose yourself to it every day, think of the strength and endurance that will be created. If you just go to the gym once a week or twice a month, what will it accomplish? If you go to the gym five days a week, six days a week or seven days a week how much more would it accomplish? Too many people are trying to live from day to day on that which they only experience once a week.
Paul went on to talk about worship. He mentioned Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. You know your worship doesn’t always have to always be “Look What the Lord Has Done.” You don’t have to fake happy in the presence of God. If your worship is a Psalm of Lament, if your worship is a Psalm of Despair, if it is offered in sacrifice to God, if you are bowed down to God in the middle of your pain, your worship will renew you. Just read the Psalms. Many start out as bad news, depressing news, a mixed bag of emotions, and by the end of the worship time, the person is feeling confident, restored and ready to face whatever comes their way.
Maybe your worship will be a hymn–something you learned as a kid that you can refer back to in order to be reminded of God’s faithfulness. Maybe it is a hymn that highlights the theology of God in three Persons, Blessed Trinity or that there is Power in the Blood to get you through from day to day. Maybe you need that hymn to re-anchor you to what you know to be true. Maybe your worship is a spiritual song that just becomes an expression between you and God. Maybe it is a song from your heart of gratitude and thanksgiving. Maybe you are just jammin’ to Mandisa, Casting Crowns, or Kari Jobe as you move through your day. However you are worship, if you keep it real, God will enter in with you and provide what you need in order to be encouraged body, mind and spirit. I really believe that. Worship ministers to the whole person.
Paul concludes this passage this way: Colossians 3:17-And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
When you put on Kingdom attitudes you are doing it to become like Jesus. When you put up with some people and put offenses behind you, you are doing it in order to share the generosity of Jesus and to make sure that nothing gets in the way of you becoming like Him or honoring Him with your life. When you spend time in the Word and Worship, you are choosing to leave the things of this world and to engage with the words and ways of Heaven.
Whatever you do, make sure it represents the Lord Jesus and brings glory to His name.