Lord God, we ask you to keep your household, the Church, continually in your true faith and devotion; so that that they who rely only upon the hope of your heavenly grace, may always be defended by your mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Holy Scripture: Colossians 3 : 12 - 17
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion and kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. 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 your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 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. 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.
AS GOD’S CHOSEN PEOPLE: Holy Aspiration.
The apostle’s opening adverb, “therefore”, suggests such mighty consequences as a result of our status as believers in the gospel of Christ. His explication leaves us breathless, if we heed it thoroughly. He speaks initially of the highest privilege we may possibly conceive, and then he adumbrates our qualities and practice as God’s dear people. His first remark places us within the personal possession of God, a fact that extolls the greatest force in the universe, and mentions the greatest blessing we could ever receive - the unearned, undeserved, unmeasurable grace of God. There is no more fortunate consequence of the gift of faith than to know that we are in the grip of eternal divine love that destined us for the favor, fellowship, and family of God - the Lord’s selection of his people.
Electing love through and in Jesus Christ is the action of maximal mercy, kindness, generosity and forgiveness on the part of the Lord; infinite x infinite. Superabundant liberality beyond calculation and comprehension has settled upon us. In Christ, God has determined to donate to the elect his all, and that all will not be exhausted throughout all eternity. The choice of his people is God’s magnificent distinguishing magnanimity that he minded to manifest from the Beginning in the calling of the elect, those associated with the Son and considered for union with him before the dawn of time. Believers are marked out by everlasting love for everlasting life in the sovereign decision of God.
It is this priceless intent and purpose of the Lord that conditions every iota of meaning in St Paul’s rousing exhortation to the Christians at Colosse. Moving from the astonishing initiative of God in predestination (a theme for the comfort of Christians, and not for speculation, Article 17), Paul advances into the calling of the saints to heartfelt imitation of the goodness of God that has sought and secured them for the uninterrupted knowledge of him and the bliss of heaven. Conversion is the entrance to virtuous character in the likeness of Jesus. Being dearly loved, with holiness of heart wrought by grace, the chosen are reminded and motivated by the apostle to be a living demonstration of loving-kindness to each other that ultimately should overflow as wooing power to draw outsiders into the people of God also. Believers are enrolled as those who attract others to the world’s Redeemer. Evidence of this attraction should shine forth from the life of the church as proof of the certainty of God’s graciousness to all who seek and desire him. The aim of redemption is replication of Christ-likeness in the persons of the redeemed. All these marvelously graced lives bring glory to God.
“Clothe yourselves with compassion and kindness, humility, gentleness and patience”: Our dress, or habitual outward demeanor, is to be representative of our sincere interior disposition, and we are to reflect the preferred traits of the Divine Being in our sanctified relationships as fellow children of God. It may therefore be asked, do we exercise in our church gatherings, and the emergence of differences, these attitudes to the fullest extent possible, and with reasonable consideration of ethical permission?
“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another”: Grievances occur so swiftly. They can be sown by hasty judgments that are ill-informed, and situations that are misconstrued. Wounds may be felt through faulty reception in certain individuals caused by negative mood at a given time, and heightened sensitivity can exaggerate the sharpness of perceived barbs. Misunderstandings abound in the life of congregations. Rumors gain credibility too readily, and the tendency of the old nature to criticism is often not regulated or restrained. Sin is at work intentionally and unintentionally in any Christian company. Paul brings to mind the vital reality of unlimited forgiveness that God extends toward his own by sovereign choice. As hard, gradual, and painful as it may feel, a like forgiveness and forbearance is to be extended to others among us where contrition replaces stubbornness and pride. “Forgive as the Lord forgave you” is the premiss of our mutual behavior. There should always be the willingness to forgive, conditioned, of course, by the offender’s contrition. It is spiritually harmful to declare the word of forgiveness prematurely when scope for repentance and the seriousness of offense is disallowed to the consciousness of the wrongdoer with responsibility to achieve reconciliation.
All virtues are valueless without love. Love, that genuine respectful regard for another that avoids any injury toward them, harbors every desire to benefit them, and should lead to the cherishing of one observed to belong to the Lord, should crown every thought and overture directed toward a fellow believer on the ground that the most supreme love of all has been unconditionally conferred upon us. How can we withhold that which we have so freely received? Love, as Paul acknowledges and avers, has the binding effect of bringing the people of God into perfect unity, and the peace granted by the Lord Jesus to his people should prevail among them. All these things require self-denial and self-giving that only supernatural ability from God can achieve, but our aim should be high, and our self-examination candid and thorough at all times. For in all things we are to bring honor to the name of the Lord Jesus, our very strongest incentive in the lives we live through him. Paul brings us to sober assessment of the quality of our relationships, the earnestness of our gratitude to the merciful will of God and its ensuing obedience. None can reflect on the apostolic exhortation without sorrow for falling short and with accompanying resolve for amendment of life, and this capacity can only be enabled by his doing within us.