...holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony...
Yesterday we celebrated the birth of Jesus, a holy act that inaugurates a movement on the part of God to make new the very nature of faithful human beings. With that newness comes a new set of clothes so to speak.
In this passage Paul presents a vivid portrait of what it looks like to live as someone clothed entirely in Christ. It’s a picture both of us as individuals, as well as what it means to be a part of a community where Christ is all and in all.
Many of us unwrapped some new clothes yesterday.New pants and shirts, and perhaps some new styles to try. I got a couple of gifts like that - including this sweater. This is not my typical style I would choose for myself, but I love it. It’s warm, comfortable, and I think it looks good on me. But if I wore this around the neighborhood, would anyone even notice it was a new look for me?
A material change doesn’t really leave a lasting impression. But Paul isn’t telling us to put on a new sweater or slacks. Instead he’s reminding us to make an inward change, to put on Christ’s heart and wear his love out in the world. Paul uses this metaphor of wearing new clothes as marking our new life in Christ.One that sets out a way of life that avoids vices and upholds virtues.
I don’t have a clue what kind of sweaters Jesus got as gifts, but the Bible gives us plenty of views into his inward appearance that certainly got people’s attention. Looking at this list of virtues, it's impossible not to see Jesus as the one modeling them. But he isn’t just walking the runway for us to admire this new style. He’s out there, wearing his best, so we will mimic and mirror him. Jesus wears God’s righteousness to set an example on how we, his followers, should follow him.
Think about all the stories where Jesus hears the cries of the people and has compassion on them. He meets them in their pain and suffering, healing the sick and lame, and casting out the demons. He feeds the hungry, gives sight to the blind, and even raises the dead. If we want to live into Christ, to wear his heart, then we must make his way of compassion our way.
Just as Jesus showed kindness to everyone – especially to the ones who were being unjustly treated – so too must we be kind. The same is true about wearing his humility and patience, because once we get to know Jesus, our old ways no longer fit anymore. If we are going to be Christ followers, then we must not only walk in his footsteps but we must do so by wearing his sandals and carrying his staff.
watch the message here, just be kind and know there are some technical glitches.
Paul instructed the new church in Colossi to be intentionally focused on living virtuously, to set one’s mind on the way of Christ and not the way of the world.
When I see this list, I can’t help but wonder “am I capable of living up to these virtuous characteristics?” Where would I even begin?
As I thought about this question, that old cliché “What Would Jesus Do?” kept popping up in my head. It might not be fashionable anymore to wear those WWJD bracelets, but the message is still relevant for us today just as it was when Paul wrote this letter. It’s like he’s saying “Just look at what Jesus has done for you, and go and do that for others.”
Because Jesus has shown you compassion, you ought to be compassionate. If Jesus has forgiven you for what you have done (or left undone) then go and be liberal with your forgiveness. Go and be the blessing that Jesus is to you.
Just as he bears our burdens, we must also bear the burdens of those who are struggling. If someone you know is in need, do what Jesus did and help them. Don’t leave a person hanging or stranded because God through Christ has not left you stranded.
There’s a common practice in Alaska where you pick up a hitchhiker when you see one. No matter what. As dangerous as that might be, in a vast wilderness like Alaska, it’s possible you might be the only person who drives past them. The locals there do this because they know that there could come a day when they are that person who needs help.
If you ask me, this is what Jesus meant when he said love God and love your neighbor. For you never know when you might need a helping hand or forgiveness. Some call this Karma. But I call it being Christ like.
We might not be the best dressed, so to speak, but when we live in imitation of Christ, when we wear his clothes out into the world…we too become a part of God’s blessing to others like he was.
This works in every aspect of life. Do you want to live in a peaceful world? Then go and be the peace of Christ in the world. If you want a harmonious relationship with your co-workers then be the one who initiates harmony. Like Gandhi taught, go and be the change you want to see happen in your life, and in your community.
Imagine if we all loved like Christ loved us. No one would go to bed hungry. Children could live and go to school free from the fear of getting bullied or shot by a classmate. Or think about this - if every follower of Jesus Christ actually did what he did COVID could be eliminated because people would put the health and safety of the community above their own personal complaints.
Refusing to get vaccinated because of some political posture is the antithesis of clothing yourself in Christ like love. Right dress is not a matter of individual piety or political preference. It’s a matter of how we relate to one another in Christ. Compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience are all relational virtues that mark how we think and behave toward one another in the community.
The Church is called the Body of Christ for a reason. We are a part of him. His heart is our heart. His hands are our hands. As his body we are the visible presence of his glory here in Ananmesa. Together, in this sacred space, we bear the responsibility to wear his love like we wear our own skin.
Perhaps this is what it means to have his word dwell in us. To have the love of Christ be who we are on the inside and out, so that we can live in perfect harmony with ourselves and one another.
Jesus calls us out into that space between us and them, and to fill it with God’s glory. Thus Paul writes, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Do everything in the name of Jesus. More than mere instructions, Paul is inviting us to take inventory of the things we do on a daily basis and then ask ourselves, would this be a blessing on someone’s life? If you don’t know how to answer that, then look to Jesus, who by living out God’s righteousness, sets the example for us to mirror.
When we chose the name Anamesa, we did so because it reminds us that God comes to meet us in all those spaces that are in between us. We want to build a community space of faith that knows in its heart that God is with us and among us. And knowing that God is among us, we set our intentions to act accordingly.
We want to be a community that believes when we show compassion to someone, we are showing it to Christ. When we are kind to someone, we are being kind to Christ. When we are able to be humble, meek, and patient, bearing one another’s burdens, we are doing also to him. Just as God has blessed the world through Christ Jesus, so too has God blessed us so that we, like Jesus, would become a blessing upon the world.
Therefore, go out into the world and “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. And be thankful.”
Let your heart sing and rejoice, knowing all that you do, you do in Christ name, bringing glory to God whose one size fits all kind of love wears well on anyone who chooses to put it on.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”