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 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 in 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. (verses 12-17)
Having told us to “put to death” our old self, taking it off like a suit of soiled clothing, Paul now tells us what it means to “put on the new self” (Colossians 3:9-10). He uses three images: putting on clothes, following an umpire, and welcoming a tenant.
“Clothe yourselves,” Paul says, urging us to put on appropriate clothing. Well, what’s appropriate? Some clothes are suitable for weddings, while others would only be suitable for snorkelling at the beach. What’s appropriate for one would be completely out of place for the other. So, what’s appropriate for the Christian life? Here’s the line-up: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, and forgiveness. “This suit of clothing seems very familiar,” we think, wondering where we’ve seen it before. But it’s when Paul pauses on forgiveness, telling us to “forgive as the Lord forgave you,” that suddenly we put our finger on the familiarity. Of course, it all looks like Jesus. Indeed, in another place, Paul will simply say, “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14). Of course, what else would do? Paul clinches it by telling us to cinch it up with love, “which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Of course, loving one another, with Jesus’ own love, is the very thing that lets us be known as his disciples. It’s all a distinctive ensemble.
Paul goes on: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,” he says, using a word for “rule”that means “to act as umpire.” An umpire is a third party who arbitrates amid competing perspectives. In baseball, the umpire, with a view from directly behind the plate, rules on whether a pitch is fair our foul. Let the peace of Christ himself do that in the core of your being, Paul says. Peace settles things down, spreading health and wholeness, allowing us to live life in all its fullness, just as Jesus promised. Welcome his peace in your hearts and in your relationships.
Finally, “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” The picture is of a tenant who is given the right to move into a residence, making himself at home. Indeed, here, the “tenant” becomes the rightful owner, carrying out renovations in line with his own tastes, rearranging walls and plumbing, redoing flooring and paint colours. It’s “the word of Christ” himself that does this. As we spend time – regularly, daily – in the scriptures, the scripture itself takes up residence within us, transforming our inner being, thoughts and behaviour, shaping them more and more into conformity with the tastes of Jesus himself. How good.
All of this happens in the context of being “God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved.” We don’t have to prove ourselves, desperately hoping we can manage this “new self” transformation on our own. No, not at all. We’re already secure, fully embraced in the love of the Father, welcomed home in celebration, just like the prodigal. So, we simply proceed in full freedom, actively engaging in the power of the Spirit (as Paul tells us elsewhere), doing “it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” What joy. May it be.
O Lord, work this ongoing transformation in my life and relationships that all may be shaped more and more to your own likeness. To your glory. Amen.
Reflect: Take one of the images (clothing, umpire, tenant) and lean into it throughout the day, allowing the Lord to shape you as he sees fit.