Wednesday, November 01, 2006


In his letter to the Colossians, Paul writes, “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, 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.” (Colossians 3:12-14) Clearly, the key piece that puts all these virtues together into a well-fitting puzzle is love. Without love it would be impossible to show all these characteristics to one another. It is like the shrink wrap that holds all the pieces together when you buy something that needs assembly! Where does this kind of love come from? It comes from God. Remember, God is love. He gave us his Holy Spirit to live inside us and it is the Holy Spirit who creates this God-love in us. The Holy Spirit is working to make us more and more like Jesus and love is the most important characteristic we have to develop!

Paul gives us several illustrations of how we can show love to one another. In Ephesians 4:32 he says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” The main point here is forgiveness. There is a need for forgiveness in the body of Christ. It is obvious that Paul knows we are not perfect. We will sin against each other and hurt each other. What do we do in situations like this? Paul says we are to show kindness and compassion and forgive. The word “kind” means “good and gracious.” Like God, we are to be concerned for the good of others. Like God, we are to extend grace to other people. In other words, just as God loved us when we were completely undeserving, we are to love others when they are mean or thoughtless or rude or selfish. We are to respond to behavior like this with kindness. Then Paul says we are to show compassion. That word means “tenderhearted.” It is difficult for us to accept but the fact is we are not responsible for pursuing justice when we have been wronged! That is God’s field. He is the one who sees to justice and we don’t have to worry about getting even or being shown to be right. Rather, we are to respond with compassion and tender hearts. God looked down on lost sinners with a tender heart. His heart was touched by our suffering and sin. So we are to act toward the people in our lives. We extend grace to them. We feel for them. There is no place in the church for an attitude that says, “Well, he made his bed, now he’ll just have to lie in it!” Instead, we are to forgive others just as God forgave us. We often pray, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Do we mean it? Are we more concerned with being hurt or wronged than we are with forgiving? Again, the church is designed to reflect the character of God and that includes showing love by forgiving one another as we would like to be forgiven and as God has already forgiven us!

Galatians 6:1, 2 shows us another way to demonstrate love to one another. “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” When someone is struggling in sin it is not loving simply to separate yourself from him and leave him in the quicksand. Neither is it loving to stand back and point a finger of accusation at him. Nor should we turn a blind eye, pretending not to see, and let him try to figure a way out of his trouble. Rather, we are called to help the brother up and aid him along the way, carrying his burden for him as he goes! Paul says this is the way to fulfill the law of Christ. What is the law of Christ? “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Loving our neighbor means carrying his burden when he is slogging through the quagmire. It means trying to find ways to help lighten the load. It means supporting our neighbor when it seems he cannot walk by himself. This is what we would want our brothers and sisters to do for us so it is what we should do for them!


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