Of all the things we have considered from the letter to the Colossian church, these last couple lessons resonate the most to me. With Christ as my Savior and with my hope resting in Him, my attention now shifts to those things above (3:1, 2). With the strength that only He can provide (Philippians 4:13), the often-arduous task of putting “to death” my “members which are on the earth” (3:5) along with earnestly seeking to “put off” (3:8) “the old man with his deeds” (3:9) is what the Lord beacons me to pursue. As challenging as that may be, He invites me to go even further. He calls me to replace those tainted garments by putting “on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (3:10) This caused me to think about these words from Ephesians 4:24 concerning the new man Christ has made me to be, “…put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” I have been made “in true righteousness and holiness”! Once again, I am reminded about who I have become in Christ; that is, “the elect of God, holy and beloved” (3:12). Considering what Christ has done and made possible, how could I not seek after the garments that best represent who He is and who He so desperately wants me to become to the glory of His name and the furthering of His church?
Once again, our thoughts go back to the preparations needed for the storms of life which we will face as we journey homeward. Committed now to cloth ourselves with “tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness and longsuffering” (3:12), knowing this is what our Savior desires. These attributes, pieces of garment if you will, help us to help each other, for we do not weather these storms alone. They enable us to bear “with one another” as well as “forgive one another” (3:13). To this point, using the analogy of winter clothes from last week, we see the various layers that are now on: long johns, snow pants, winter hat and shirt with gloves at the ready. But there is one final piece of clothing that matters most, for it completes the apparel needed to protect us from the elements. Listen as the Holy Spirit invites us to endeavor to put on this final piece of clothing.
But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.
Once again, the simplicity of the ETRV grabs my attention, “Together with these things, the most important part of your new life is to love each other. Love is what holds everything together in perfect unity.” As one person writes, love is the “source from whence they flow.” You see, all these attributes we have considered already, are ineffective without love. In 1st Corinthians 13, Paul writes of those who could “speak with the tongues of men and angels”, others having “the gift of prophecy”, a faith that could move mountains, and a willingness to “bestow all my goods to feed the poor”, even sacrificing my body. Much like the attributes we have considered, these are well and good, but if they are not driven by love, they are nothing but noise that amounts to nothing (1st Corinthians 13:1-3). Paul uses similar language when talking about the “armor of God” in Ephesians 6:10-17, saying, “above all, taking the shield of faith with which, you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one” (Ephesians 6:11, 16). The shield of faith completed the armor, just like love completes the apparel needed to weather the storms of life. Without love, all the other things will fail to provide the needed protection, for they are themselves the product of love. The importance of love is realized in the words “bond of perfection.” The NIV reads, “…which binds them all together in perfect unity.” The word bond means a joint tie, i.e. ligament, uniting principle, control. Barnes writes, “The bond of all perfection; the thing which will unite all other things, and make them complete…”. It should be noted that there is some question to what is meant by “the bond of perfection.” Is love the thing that bonds these Christian traits together, or is it what binds all Christians together? I believe it could be both, as one commentator writes, “When love binds Christians together, the ideal of Christian perfection is attained.”
As I close this article, I think of the very next verse, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body, and be thankful” (Colossians 3:15). Is it possible for peace to rule our hearts without tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness and longsuffering? Is it possible for peace to reside in the hearts of the unforgiving? Is it possible to have peace without the love of Christ guiding my steps? Those are all rhetorical question, I know. When I am reminded of what Christ has done for me, who He has made me to be and what He is willing to do to transform this man that I am into something so fulfilling, how can I not be thankful. Thank You Lord for Your love and constant patience. Help me to be like You.