Why Love?

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)

It is good to be back with you today in the capacity of preaching. I appreciate the many prayers from you for my shoulder surgery and my continued recovery. I’m not 100% yet, but by God’s grace I am getting better and am able to get back into most of my normal responsibilities. I also appreciate and want to say thank you to those of you who have helped me greatly by standing in for me through preaching and in other ways so that I could take time to improve after my surgery. Thank you all.

As we get back into Colossians today, I want to briefly mention where we have been because it is important to where we are today in our study, and I don’t want us to misunderstand the context. At the beginning of this paragraph, in verses 12 and 13, Paul gives us some really important instruction. If you are a Christian then you, we, should be really interested in verses 12 and 13 because they give us a course that we can follow. We may talk about loving Christ and living for Him and being grateful to Him for all He has done for us, but at some point we all need to move beyond lofty statements to actions that will be consistent with our expressed desires and claims. 

Culturally, where we are, and this is definitely changing, but culturally where we are in this county, in our neighborhoods, we could walk around and ask people, “Do you love Jesus?” and a great number would most likely answer, “Sure, yes. I mean of course, who wouldn’t?” We would still get many responses like that, for now. But really, what does that mean? Does it mean that they, we, are actually living life for Him? Does it show itself, does the claim to love Him show itself in what we do?

Paul is here helping us to put actions to our claims when he says in verse 12 that are to put on, like a set of clothes, we are to put on “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.”

How do we go about as Christians? We go about in life, wherever we are, whomever we are with, no matter how we feel, we are to go about life with “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” With our spouse, parents, children, co-workers, close friends, and enemies we are to live this way.

That is good to know. So in easy conversations and during hard ones, these should be seen in us. We talked about them in detail already so I won’t do that now, but words have meanings and the meanings are important, so if you are unsure about what some of these mean, please listen to the previous messages on them.

Verse 13 helps us even further to know how to conduct ourselves as children of God. It reads, “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.”

We spent two weeks talking about forgiveness. First in a general sense and then in a more practical sense. Forgiveness is a key activity for Christians. It is not optional, or even an occasional activity, it is an ongoing endeavor and we need to be sure we understand what forgiveness is and be sure that we are practicing it.

So if we are being persecuted, ridiculed, or harassed, we should in those circumstances put on “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 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.” When times and circumstances are really hard and seem unfair, these things are to rule our conduct. When we are being treated warmly, lovingly, graciously, we are to live in these ways too. 

Now, this is challenging for us who are still here, in this world, in this flesh, and not yet fully sanctified. No question about it, we fail in these areas, but even in our failures and struggles there is forgiveness, and there is opportunity to seek the Lord and His strength and walk in faith, believing that our God is strong to lead us in living rightly for Him. 

We don’t do any of these things to earn His favor, to make Him like us, to obligate Him to be kind to us. That is not the point. He does these things for us already. The point is we have an opportunity to show our love to Him and to the world around us by living His way for His glory. Our prayer should be that many will see us living His way and do what? Glorify God who is in heaven, right? Not to praise us, but to glorify God who deserves all glory and all praise and all honor, to Him be the glory forever and ever, amen!

Now these are rich truths. But there is more! There is something that is above all these things. Look at verse 14: “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

Paul over and over again lifts up this grace of love in His writings, we see the elevation of the importance of love in many places. 

8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:8-10)

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. (Galatians 5:6)

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)

Jesus spoke just as strongly about love when He was asked which of the commandments was the greatest of all…

29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

Love in many ways sums up the greatest Christian virtue. And I want us to see this in the way Paul uses the word love, how he describes it in Colossians 3:14. He does not just add it to a list of virtues, nor does he just go out and be loving, but he brings love into his message like this…

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:14)

He does three things here. First he uses the phrase “put on” just like he had done back in verse 12 before he speaks of other virtues. Put on is like putting on clothing. We are to put on love, we are to wear it, to be seen in it, to cover ourselves with it. But it is even more, it binds all other virtues together. It is like a fastener. It holds the other virtues in place. Love binds them all together. Love makes all the other virtues possible, putting them together. 

Apart from love we will not have “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 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.” If we are really struggling with this list, I think it is fair to ask ourselves the question, “Do I really love? Or am I trying to somehow be kind apart from love, to be compassionate apart from love? Am I trying to put on humility around others, thinking of them first and as more important apart from love?” And so on. If that is what we are trying to do, it will fall flat. Love is to prevail in us and is to enable or hold these other virtues together.

For instance, parents, do you remember telling your children to “just be nice” to one of their siblings? Have you done that? Sounds like a good request. The kids have been rough with each other, selfish in their behavior, unkind. And you think, “If you guys would just for once be nice to each other?” And it comes out, “Just be nice!” Nice is good. God says we should be kind, right? But if we simply practice niceties apart from a heart of love, it just won’t go far. In this case it is just pretending, really. Maybe a kind gesture, I can help you in some ways without any love in my heart toward you. You can for an hour be kind to you co-worker just to get along. But what if you were to really love them? What if because of an acute awareness of God’s love for you and Christ’s extreme loving sacrifice for you, because of this you with joy chose to replicate that in some measure toward your neighbor? What if your motive to be kind was coming from a heart of love for Christ?

It is like that love would gather up to itself kindness and meekness and humility and forgiveness and compassion. All would come together because of love and would show itself strong in our actions with our neighbors.

But in the absence of true love we are simply laboring to maybe perform one kind thing, and then maybe another, and in our exhaustion probably we will revert back to actions more consistent with an unloving heart. Do you see what I mean? Out of hearts of love spring kind behaviors. We are to love.

How important is love as an ingredient for our behaviors toward others?

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

Love is not secondary, it is primary. It brings other Christian virtues into harmony, it completes them.

This love, it is extreme. It is love that is really quite foreign for the most part. We tend to love those who love us. That is not biblical love. Biblical love extends to the unlovely, to those who don’t appreciate it, to those who don’t deserve it. It is the love that God has for us.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)

We have been talking about love, but have not defined it yet this morning. Love can be defined as giving to another what you can because you know God wants you to. It is giving, it is sacrificial, and it has the other person’s good in mind. It is also motivated out of a love for Christ. He loved us and so we are able to love other people, in extreme ways. His love was extreme, extending to His enemies. It had to because we were all once His enemies. Aren’t you glad that Christ loved His enemies?

It is this kind of love that brings into harmony other Christian virtues.

In verse 15 Paul goes on to add peace and thanksgiving as components of the Christian life. Here is what he says: “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”

Paul’s words are interesting. He speaks of peace. Now if we understand Christian theology at all, then we know that peace is something we have with God, I mean in an objective sense. Christ died on the cross for our sins so that we can have peace with God. Peace with God means that we no longer owe a debt, we are no longer His enemy, we are at peace with Him. Maybe it is like after a long war. The war is over and a peace treaty is signed. This means there is an agreement to live at peace.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)

Christians are at peace with God through Christ. That is settled. We are no longer enemies. But what Paul says in Colossians 3:15 is that we are to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. That is a little different. Paul is urging us to let this peace, as we understand it, let it rule in our hearts.

The heart is the center of who we are, and there we need to be at peace. We need to live in this peace. We need to embrace this peace in how we think, how we live, how we process our circumstances. We may have troubles in life, but there is an overarching, high truth, and that is we are at peace with the creator and ruler of all that there is. This should add calmness to life. This should add security to life, courage to life. We are on God’s side! He is for us, we are at peace with Him. Can we keep that in our thoughts and minds?

In the midst of community tension, relationship troubles, we are still at peace with God, and He can and does intervene in all aspects of life. He is not one to compartmentalize events, He is in them all. He is always for us, even when we don’t understand all things. He does not abandon, He does not let go, He does not walk away; we are at peace with Him. Paul just wants us to live in the implication of that truth.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39)

God is in all things, He is for us, He is with us, we are at peace with Him. And so, be thankful! Live in a spirit of thanksgiving. We are at peace with Him.

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. (Colossians 3:14-15)