Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:12-15
Author Mark Twain once said, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence in our society.” I wish I could go back in time and read this to the 6th-grade version of myself. Maybe, just maybe, that would’ve woken me up and helped me realize the way to be “the man” in middle school was not to have your mom pick out your wardrobe. But, alas, there is no time machine, and the old photographs of me dressed in turtlenecks and sweater vests attest to this fact. As sad as it is to say, I was known as “turtleneck guy.” This was my identity. The clothes, every different shade of turtleneck I owned, made this man.
Clothes are important. They not only cover us but also in many ways are used to identify us. Maybe you were a prep, goth, grunge, jock, hippie, skater, tomboy, nerd or even a wannabe. Growing up, you got placed in different social circles depending on what you wore. People labeled you based on your labels.
In today’s passage, Paul speaks of a different type of clothing and how wearing it shapes the way others perceive us. According to Paul, clothes make the relationship. Paul isn’t referring to physical clothes like jeans, a sweater or a hoodie. Instead, he is encouraging his readers to clothe themselves with Christ’s character. In essence, Paul is saying if we want to invest in the lives of others we better come dressed for the job.
This isn’t about becoming perfect, achieving some level of moral superiority or getting all our ducks in a row before we can speak words of wisdom to others. Putting on Christ has more to do with our actions and attitude towards the person who we are trying to help.
How were our words delivered? Were they clothed with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness and above else, love? Take it a step further, if those words weren’t received well by the other person, how did we react? How compassionate were we as they talked more openly about their struggles? Did we respond in love? Were we patient when they pushed back on us?
Sometimes we can answer those questions with a resounding yes. We served as Christ’s ambassador. We died to ourselves. We picked up our cross. We reflected His heart at that moment. However, there are other times when we drop the ball and fail. We respond in anger. We lose our patience. We speak harshly. We pursue our agenda.
Please understand those moments aren’t a lost cause. Believe it or not, they serve as another opportunity to minister to that person as well as transform our heart. It all depends on how we respond. Will we have enough humility to confess our sin and ask for forgiveness from God and the individual? Rather than hide our shortcomings, what if we were transparent about needing God’s grace and being a work in progress? How do you think the other person would respond?
Our lives should serve as evidence of God’s power to transform the human heart. Without proof of transformation, our words will fall on deaf ears. God uses not only our words but also the way we live to speak His truth to others. We’re not just called to talk about the truth in love, we're charged with living it out as well. So, today as you go about your business building relationships, clothe yourself with Christ’s heart.
What are you clothing yourself with (love, fear, hope, anger, etc.) and how is that outfit influencing your words, actions and relationships?
God, may I clothe myself with compassion and kindness. May I exhibit humility in my relationships. When I’m reaching out to others, I want kindness, gentleness, and self-control to define my effort. I pray that I am quick to forgive and seek forgiveness when need be. But, above all else, may Your amazing love serve as the foundation of my words and actions. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.