12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:12-17)
We spent a lot of our time last week talking about the first part of Colossians 3:12, the part that says, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved…” The emphasis was on the truth that for us to begin to live in a way that is pleasing to God in our relationships, we must first understand and even glory in our position with God in Christ. What is our position with Him? He chose us, He has separated us from the rest of the world population, and we are dearly loved by Him. He has made us a people for Himself, and that is so He can shower His mercy and kindness on us. That is what He does, and that is what He will do. If we are happy in that, glory in that, if we are consciously living in that and it is permeating our thinking, then we will be in a better position to reach out to other people as He asks us to do.
What I mean is if we are settled in our place with God and overjoyed by it, then we are free to have compassionate hearts, be kind, be humble, be meek, and be patient with other people. If we are not acting and thinking with compassion toward others, with kindness, with humility, with meekness, and with patience, then one thing we can do is ask ourselves, “Am I, right now, glorying in my position in Christ with God?” Because if we forget that truth or choose to ignore it, it will affect our relationships with other people. Our relationship with God and how we think about it will always affect how we relate to other people.
I don’t want us to lose sight of this truth before we get into these characteristics listed in verse 12. This is not a simple to-do list, it is instead a way of living that should flow out of who we are and what we believe to be true about us and about God.
There are times when I stand before you to preach, and it is really hard, hard because what I want to do sometimes is hide behind a wall or just give someone else the pulpit for that week. And it is because I study passages like this and I know in my heart how far I fall short of what I am preaching. And I think, “Wow, how am I going to stand before you with this?” And so I’m saying that I have failed miserably with some of these things we will talk about, and I don’t mean like years ago or before I knew better, I mean just recently.
And so today, like many other times, I stand before you as a congregant, as a part of the congregation with you, as one who needs to receive the Word, not just as a preacher who is proclaiming it. Now before we end today I want to help you. If you are like me, if you are really struggling with some of these things, I don’t want any of us to stay in a bad place. God always has solutions for us, He always provides remedy for our sin and sinful behavior. So we will get to that in a bit!
Last week we got through the phrase, “compassionate hearts.” So we will pick up today with the word “kindness.” Paul says, as inspired by God, that we are to put on “kindness.”
Kindness is a familiar word to us. We tell our children to be kind to others. However, we may at times value other people’s kindness toward us more than our acts of kindness toward them. We may also feel justified withholding kindness due to some act or attitude others display toward us. Kindness though is not optional as Christians. We are to be, or to put on, as Paul says, kindness. There is no legitimate reason to withhold kindness as Christians who are to love as Christ has loved us.
What is kindness? Kindness is giving to another graciously even if we have been treated badly by that person. D. A. Carson articulates it this way, speaking of kindness as an attribute of love from 1 Corinthians 13: “Love is kind – not merely patient and long-suffering in the face of injury, but quick to pay back with kindness what is received in hurt.” Kindness pictures active goodness on other people’s behalf. Jesus said…
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:35)
Jesus emphasizes with these words the fact that God does not return evil for evil, nor does He withhold good from the ungrateful. All people daily offend the Father as sinners. In this sense, we all are ungrateful, and even as children of God we do evil. Yet God chooses to reciprocate with good. This is kindness.
In Ephesians 4 kindness is contrasted with bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and slander…
31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32)
When Jesus invites us into His rest as those who may be wearied and heavy laden by life and the cares of this world, He does so using another form of this same word, which is translated as “easy.”
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
His yoke is easy, or you could say good, gracious, kind.
Wayne Mack speaks of kindness this way: “It goes beyond being sorry for or pitying people or being concerned about or compassionate toward people who have needs; kindness is more than an emotion or an attitude. It includes that, of course, but goes beyond that to do something positive as an expression of that attitude.”
Being kind is then an active endeavor, not a feeling or a mood. Nor is kindness limited, to be given only to those whom we have natural affection toward. Jesus said in Matthew 5:40-41, “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. And whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two.”
While each of us are capable of some level of kindness, it is important to remember that biblical kindness is a requirement when it may not be our normal response and when it would not be. In other words, kind behavior is to rule in our relationships with our neighbors, whoever they may be, in the home or outside the home.
Our world collides with other people’s worlds daily, and sometimes that collision is not a burst of kindness and affection, but of hurt, sorrow, and anger. However with Jesus as our example, we can see how He dealt with His most difficult moments. Did He turn inward? Did He lash out at injustice toward Him? Did He fight for His right for peace and comfort? No, instead He chose kindness.
When Jesus was on the cross after having been beaten, mocked, falsely accused, and abandoned, He chose to be kind. When Jesus was about to face the wrath of the Father in His flesh, in His mind, He chose kindness. After He had expressed to His Father His deep struggle with a coming rejection and break in unity that would happen between He and His Father when the sins of the world would be hurled upon Him, He chose kindness. While on the cross suffering and near death, He looked down and saw His mother Mary, who was witnessing the death of her son. Thinking not just of Himself or His own trial, He acted to comfort and care for her. He kindly instructed His disciple John to care for her (John 19:27). Jesus also, from the cross, cried out to His Father on behalf of the evil men who crucified Him, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Jesus showed the kindness of His grace to a criminal who hung next to Him on a cross. Upon the criminal’s confession of his own sin and belief in the innocence of Christ, Jesus said, “I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). The active kindness that Jesus demonstrates for us continued when life was most difficult and harsh.
Living in kindness is not to be a relative event that is subject to circumstances. It is to be instead a constant, active walk in our lives that looks like Jesus’ radical kindness toward us. On the cross He even showed us great, undeserved kindness in that He stayed on that cross and finished His work so that we can live eternally with Him. The kindness of Christ Jesus is our calling. By God’s grace and in His strength we can live in this way for Him!
Next we read that we are to put on humility. Humility is the antidote, John MacArthur says, to the poison of self-love. Paul had already pointed out the false humility of false teachers in the previous chapter.
Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind (Colossians 2:18)
But true humility is that found in Jesus, as we see in several passages…
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:29)
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:8)
If Christ was humble, and He was, then this is definitely something fitting for us as those who profess to follow Him. We are to think of others as more important than ourselves and let go of high thoughts of ourselves. If we do that, it will change how we act and respond to others. We will no longer speak as if we are above someone else, as if we are more deserving than others, as if we know it all and our ways are always right. We will instead consider others, their position, their way of thinking, and not be so quick to judge. Humility is what we are to put on.
Next, meekness or gentleness. This is a willingness to suffer injury instead of inflicting it. A willingness to suffer. This is a person who knows he is a sinner and responds to others from that understood position. A gentle person will receive and willingly endure undeserved criticism instead of responding with rage. Moses was described as gentle or meek.
Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. (Numbers 12:3)
Jesus was gentle, as we saw in Matthew 11:29, and when Paul in 2 Corinthians encourages gentleness he does so by directing our attention to Jesus…
I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away (2 Corinthians 10:1)
Some may say, “If I am gentle in the workplace or gentle with my neighbors, I may get taken advantage of, I may be mistreated by them.” And I would say yes, I think you probably will. As Jesus was, I think you probably will. But we have been called to suffer, haven’t we? We have been called to this. We have not been called to ease and comfort and all the pleasure this world has to offer. In fact Paul says the opposite.
If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:19)
What did he mean by that? He meant that if we die, and the way we chose to live here for Christ is a lie, then we should be pitied by all. In other words, if we chose to suffer here for Christ, be gentle facing mistreatment, humble, taking a backseat to others, and so on, if we choose to suffer in this life and there is no afterlife with Christ, then we have really blown our only opportunity to eat, drink, and be merry. But we know there is more, and so we are to suffer willingly at the hands of others if that is what happens due to our gentleness with others in this world.
Lastly, Paul says we are to be patient. Every believer will, from time to time, struggle with demonstrating patience. We know this from experience. Some of you may be struggling now, like, “When are we going to be done?” With patience, we know we have missed the mark. But it may be even worse than we have realized. Once we begin to grasp a biblical understanding of patience we will see the struggle may be greater than we had ever recognized.
One definition of patience is “to be tranquil while waiting…to bear up under provocation without complaint.” The more we comprehend the Bible’s perspective, the more we will comprehend our need for Christ on a daily basis in order to live accordingly. One commentator has said patience is “endurance of injuries without retaliation.” An even more descriptive explanation I found is this: an “ability to take a great deal of punishment from evil people or circumstances without losing one’s temper, without becoming irritated and angry, or without taking vengeance. It includes the capacity to bear pain or trials without complaint, the ability to forbear under severe provocation, and the self-control which keeps one from acting rashly even though suffering opposition or adversity.” We are commanded to be patient.
The fact that we are to be patient can be a dilemma because we realize we have not been perfectly patient on any given day, and many of us may feel powerless to improve, especially when provoked. But our all-powerful God guides and instructs us. He furnishes good gifts and spiritual power to obey. Paul reminds us of God’s power to lead us in the way of obedience, no matter how difficult our circumstances may be, when he says in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Though we may be weak in patience, He stands strong, able to empower us as we pray and rely on Him!
In Matthew 18:23-35 we view Christ teaching, using a parable, about the nature of God’s forgiveness. In this parable, God is the “King” (v.23) who was owed a terrific sum of money which could never be repaid by his servant. The servant, unable to pay the debt, approached the king in great desperation and “fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘have patience with me, and I will repay you everything” (v.26). He appealed to the patience of the king. The servant was asking the king to “be tranquil while waiting,” to “endure without retaliation” for the debt to be repaid. The king was patient, and actually forgave the entire debt. This same servant, the first servant, who was so wholly forgiven and received great patience, failed to do likewise with a fellow servant who owed him a relatively small debt. He chose instead to pour out his wrath on his fellow servant, refusing to comply with a call to patience. One who has truly been blessed with such grace, having experienced the patience of God, is instructed to do the same with his fellow man. A willingness to withhold what another deserves and replace that with patient forgiveness is what the Lord taught and practiced. The manner in which we now relate to one another as forgiven sinners must originate from how God has chosen to relate to us in His patience.
The Apostle Paul sees Christ’s patience as an illustration of mercy in his own life and spiritual experience. In 1 Timothy 1:16 we read, “But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost [of sinners], Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”
Though we have justly earned God’s wrath, He has graciously withheld it from those of us who belong to Him. His Son has shockingly assumed it for us. Though all non-believers fully deserve God’s wrath, He withholds it, patiently, so they too may come to Him, or until the awful day of final rejection arrives when they will experience it fully.
Our Lord provides our greatest example of patience. If our Lord were not patient, then none would ever have an opportunity to know Him as Lord and Savior. Each of us was born in sin as His enemy. We all willfully, sinfully strode through life apart from Him, deserving His immediate and crushing wrath. It is His patience that allowed time for His Spirit to work in us, to draw us to Himself, and to exercise saving faith. While swift destruction and suffering are what we deserve, loving patience is what we receive as Christians.
We must honestly ask ourselves whether we are more like the King who was patient or the evil servant who was not. Are we more like Christ who waited patiently until His enemies, you and me, came to Him by faith, or are we ready to pounce on others when they disappoint us? Do we stand ready to patiently do each other good or to angrily deal with others’ actions? Do we readily recognize our Lord’s patience with us as Paul did, and does that act of grace on His part compel us to live that way with others? It is easy to see the ugliness of impatience in others, but do we recognize it in our own lives? We can begin to better emulate Christ, who is our example, by living patiently.
Now as I said earlier, what is the solution if we are severely struggling with any of these attributes to which we have been called? We confess by acknowledging our sinfulness to God and to others who may have witnessed our behavior. We repent, a change of mind leading to change in behavior. We cry out to God for help. We remember our place with God as chosen, set apart, loved. And in His grace we live then as He has called us to live. Not in fear of failure, but in trust of His grace to move us in spiritual growth for His name’s sake.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience (Colossians 3:12)