‘God’s Rules’ or ‘God Rules!’?
Have you ever written a report or a story or a letter and before you submit it or send it off, you check through it for mistakes or for missed information etc and you find a mistake so you correct it or modify/add to it, then you proof it again and find another mistake that you never noticed before and you can go through this process several times, each time finding something that you didn’t notice before and asking [wondered] ‘How did I miss that?!’
This is even more so with the Bible because it’s the living Word of God so I find myself finding fresh meaning or depth from a passage that is already very familiar to me. I come across a verse that I have studied and read countless times before and I wonder, ‘How did I miss that!?’ (We’ve done this as an exercise in the Thursday night Bible study – reading and praying for fresh revelation from a familiar passage – very interesting.)
Today, I’d like to continue through our look at Colossians 3 – ‘Rules for Holy Living’ and I don’t want us to miss anything, so we’re going to move very slowly and thoroughly through it. (Re Thursday night study of Revelation.)
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
The key phrase here starts with the word ‘clothe’ so there is a tendency to race through and start getting into it from this point and wondering how we’re going to clothe ourselves. But let’s not miss what comes before.
‘Therefore’ – go back to the verse before which says – ‘but Christ is all, and is in all’ and start from there and the ‘therefore’ makes more sense: ‘Christ is all, and is in all, therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved…
The phrase I want us to focus on here is “holy and dearly loved”.
Let’s pause and meditate on this for a minute. “holy and dearly loved”
You are “holy and dearly loved” by God.
Do you ever feel insecure? Do you worry (about anything)? Feel anxious about what lies ahead? Do you sometimes feel unworthy or not valued very highly? Do you sometimes feel like you’ve failed?
You don’t need to because you have been made holy and are dearly loved by the God of creation.
Some of the images that the Bible uses are:‘hen gathering her chicks under her wing’ (Mat 23:37), ‘hidden in the shadow of his wings’ (Psalm 17:8).
Another is us being ‘the apple of God’s eye’. (Psalm 17:8)
Being comforted and suckled as though little babies cradled by their mother. (Isaiah 66)
That’s the type of love that God has for each of us and I want us to really understand that before we move on.
Because we are God’s chosen people, because we are holy and dearly loved, we are called to clothe ourselves with the virtues that follow. Let’s look at them now.
1. Compassion 同情心
Definition: Sympathetic pity and concern for the suffering or misfortunes of others
Jesus’ teaching: The Good Samaritan. Compassion knows no borders.
Jesus example: Feeding the 5,000. This was both a sign of God’s provision and a demonstration of his practical compassion.
Local example: Lyn feeding the homeless in Kamagasaki
The world knows compassion but is, frankly, underwhelming in demonstrating it. During the Sri Lankan tsunami crisis, approx. 2/3 of aid agencies were Christian.
After the Tohoku disaster, the Christian community showed heartfelt and sustained compassion – an uncommon compassion – that made an impact on the local communities. Displays of compassion are a powerful way for us to show the love of God.
2. Kindness 慈愛
Definition: the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate
Jesus example: Healing the cripple on the Sabbath; Saving us(Titus 3:4,5)
Local example: Simple – serving food for another at a pot luck dinner, giving freebie at Kurazushi
Lavish – Gift of holidays: Phil Cave, Dunc, Pierre’s brother-in-law
3. Humility 謙遜
Definition: the quality of having a modest or low view of one’s importance
“Humility is not denying the power you have but admitting that the power comes through you and not from you.”
Jesus example: Incarnation, washing the disciples feet (Pope recently washed a Muslim girl’s feet)
Local example: Michael in various ministry position over the years, humbly and faithfully serving wherever the Lord would call him.
Contrast to the world. Mat 5:3-5 (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat%205:3-5&version=NIV) is very hard for the world to understand. But to God’s children it is the source of all riches in Christ.
We should note here that humility, like other virtues can be fabricated. It’s called false humility and we read about it in Col 2:18,23, amongst other places in the Bible.
4. Gentleness 柔和
Definition: having or showing a mild, kind or tender temperament or character
Jesus’ example: the woman caught in adultery
Local example: My brother Stu. Christ in Stu over the years: thug to gentleman
Contrast to the world which would encourage assertiveness and survival of the fittest.
5. Patience 寛容
Definition: the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious
God’s example: holding off of judgement: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9
Local example: Praying for unsaved family members and friends.
Biblical admonition: Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. James 5:7,8
Contrast to the world’s culture of now. Contrast Mr Rogers with Pokemon or other modern entertainment forms in terms of instant gratification. Watching Mr Rogers for the first time, I was struck by the indirect teaching of patience (not as a euphemism for boring!) but of waiting for something good to come.
Did you notice one virtue that is not on the list here?
Do you know why tolerance is not listed here? Because tolerance itself is not a virtue. It’s completely subjective to the issue at hand. This is important for us to understand because in today’s world, tolerance is put out there as the ultimate virtue and intolerance as the unforgivable sin.
Don Carson: “The Intolerance of Tolerance”
The new tolerance, then, has become a supreme virtue, if not the supreme virtue, of much of the Western world and beyond. No longer a function of a broader ethical and moral cultural consensus, tolerance is not worked out in terms of what might be permitted—legally, intellectually, socially—granted the “givens” of this broader consensus, but becomes an absolute good that gains the power to erode other cultural distinctives, including moral and religious distinctives. (p. 76)
A culture that minimizes values such as honor, integrity, valor, self-sacrifice for the sake of other people, truth-telling, and courtesy, while maximizing sexual freedom so strongly that the issues themselves cannot be debated because everything has been decided under the controlling rubric of the new tolerance, is destined in the long haul to pay horrendous costs. (p. 138)
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (3:13)
This is central to all Christian living. It is a prerequisite to taking communion, to being heard in prayer and it is a key to our own spiritual freedom. It is a mark of being a Christ-follower.
But it’s the last bit that Paul adds on that’s the kicker: “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Another way of saying this is “You have no excuse to not forgive.” There are no reasons, no justifications, no exceptions, no pain to exempt anyone from extending forgiveness.
Last Saturday in Church Lite we looked at the following verse:
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20
Just as we, through the observation of nature, have no excuse to not recognise and worship God, so through Christ’s generous forgiveness of us, we are “without excuse” when it comes to forgiving others.
If there is anyone you have not forgiven, do not leave church today without forgiving them – and if circumstances allow letting them know that.
Finally Paul gives us his grand finale of this section:
“And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (3:14)
These virtues that Paul has listed: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience are not to be exercised selectively, excelling in some but neglecting others. All these virtues are to be bound together – functioning and active together – in a spirit of love.
That is how we should and will be known. They will know we are Christians by our love.