Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 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. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col 3: 12-17)
What a great passage of Scripture! Like so many of Paul’s writings it is chock full of great doctrine as well as practical application. It think we miss that a lot, how much of what Paul is talking about is not just high minded doctrinal pronouncements but real and living faith lived out in the Body of Christ. Paul’s audience is not restricted to theologians. This concerns real life. I find myself normally running to the sweeping doctrinal statements and when I do that I often miss the “real life” application of the text.
A couple of things really struck me about this paragraph. One is right in the first verse. Paul refers to Christians as “God’s chosen ones”, a clear affirmation of divine election. We who are Christians are not Christians by chance but by choice, not ours but His. Is there anything more humbling than God’s sovereign election? Paul urges us, in recognition of God’s sovereign choice, to be kind, meek, compassionate and humble. I don’t think that describes me very well and I don’t think I would be wrong to say that it rarely describes those who hold most firmly to the doctrine of God’s sovereign election of His chosen redeemed. I don’t understand what it is about this doctrine in myself and others that drives us to be so combatitive. That God is sovereign over salvation, that He elected a remnant of lost humanity, that He sent His Son to die purposeful and effectually for those He predestined and that upon calling them inexorably, He preserves them perfectly should drive us to increased meekness and humility.
I also really appreciated this part “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” It is love that binds us together and brings us into harmony. How foolish it is to think that we can find unity in doctrinal statements or that we promote unity in the Body through divisions over denominationalism. We talk and talk and talk about all sorts of things, everything except love. Sure it gets mention in passing but who wants to talk about love when we can argue about eschatology?
Finally, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.” That unity that Paul speaks of, one body united by the peace of Christ in our hearts, is what the church is all about. It is not about control or liturgy or sacraments. It is not about worship or sermons. It is about the peace of Christ, the love for one another that binds us together. Among all the discussions of the marks of a “true” church, one stands above all the rest: love. Without love, all of the liturgy and worship music and expository sermons are meaningless and indeed are little more than idolatry. A gathering that has love as the bond, the Gospel as the source and the peace of Christ as the unifier is a church that truly glorifies God.
What a precious fellowship this would be: a gathering of the church that has love, peace and unity as its focus instead of marketing itself in competition with other churches.