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 one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. 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 NIV)
When I was asked to guest author this blog, I wasn’t exactly sure what to write about. I mean, what does a guy write about on a blog authored by such great women, walking in Christ-like faith (especially for a guy that would, by all regards, be a nerd)?
Well, I guess there is one thing I could talk about: Clothes. More specifically, wedding clothes! A few weeks ago, I had a chance to attend a wedding for two friends of mine, Nick and Liu. The ceremony, which was held in one of the old buildings in downtown Omaha, was small and packed, yet was a blessing to be a part of, witnessing two great people renew their vows in front of friends, family, and the LORD our God.
(To clarify, they were already married a year before, because Liu was from China, and had to get married because she was on a temporary visa)
There were two things that caught my attention during my time at my friends’ wedding ceremony and reception. The first was seeing a few of my friends dressed up in suits and tuxedos. Normally, when my friends and I hang out, we don’t dress up. We’re usually in casual street clothes: Jeans, t-shirt, sneakers, the usual. But to see my friends dressed up in nice suits and tuxedos was something special, and they looked very good in them.
The second was the pastor’s message during the ceremony. The pastor referenced Paul’s letter to the Colossians, 3:12-14 (see above), and talked about how we wear these elaborate and beautiful dresses and clothes during weddings, saying that though their relationship would last a lifetime, we only wear these clothes for just this one-time occasion, and that eventually they would either go back into the closet or returned back to the tux rental place.
As a child, did you ever have your parents make you dress up to go to church on Sundays? If you didn’t, consider yourself lucky! I remember asking my mother a question of why we had to dress up for church on Sundays. She responded in her “motherly” tone: “Because you’re dressing your best for the Lord.” While my younger-self was a little upset about that answer, she does make a great point. She was teaching me and the rest of my siblings that we should give our best to the Lord when we go to worship Him, and that also meant sacrificing the comforts of dressing in our street clothes and putting on more professional and elegant attire. And we should always give our best to the Lord: our best service, our best offering, and our best gifts.
But we’re not just talking about physical clothes, though. Paul’s not telling us that we need to knit a sweater to make us better clothed people. We should be more focused on what we “wear” spiritually. And what is that?
“…clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love…”
Do these things sound familiar, like you’ve heard them in another passage? You probably have…
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
The same “spiritual clothes” that Paul is referring to in Colossians are the same as what he refers to as the “Fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians, where we should be living in rather than living in the desires of the flesh, and so driving us away from God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
But isn’t that the challenge, though? Those earthly desires are much more attractive than our spiritual desires? That $500 dress at Macy’s seems much more enticing than the $20 dress at Goodwill, doesn’t it? (Now, I know, some of you are bargain-shoppers, but just go with me on this) In the same way, it’s much more attractive to wear what the world wants us to be: to love ourselves and hate those that wrong us, or to get drunk and party all the time, or to fulfill our desires in sexual fancies, or even to be selfish and proud of our own accomplishments. It’s way easier and much more attractive to wear that than wearing the fruits of the Spirit, isn’t it? We learn very quickly that though they may look attractive, they are poison to our bodies, and will end up destroying our lives.
This is why Paul calls us to cloth ourselves in these things; not because we should look like it, but we should live it. But it is interesting, isn’t it? Do we wear our “Sunday best” every day, or is it just reserved for just worship? Some of us like to only wear their best spiritual wear just for worship, to show how holy and righteous we are. Yet the focus is only on themselves and their own image, and not on the One and only God the Father, and we start to realize that we look like fools wearing all of this goofy stuff the world has put on us.
So let’s put away the trendy clothes of the world and all of its earthy desire, and put on clothes that will help build us up to be better servants of God and of His creation. We need to put on humility, patience, kindness, forgiveness, and above all love. Now, that’s easier said than done, right? We know we can’t do this alone, because let’s face it; we’re not going to be able to do all of these things every time.
But there is one person who can: and that is Jesus. Just picture how Jesus would’ve worn His wardrobe during His time on the earth. Obviously, when we picture Jesus, we usually picture Him in a white cloak, maybe with some kind of sash or scarf, with sandals. Nothing real fancy, right? But think about what He wore spiritually: He was compassionate to the poor, the lame, and the hurting. He was kind to anyone who approached Him for mercy. He humbled Himself to His disciples when He washed His feet. He forgave the sins of many.
But most of all, He showed His love to us all, and He showed this by having compassion on us to take away all of our sins by dying the humiliating death on the cross, bear the pain and suffering so that we would no longer be faced with the same consequence of death and the grave. And because Jesus defeated death by rising up from death, we can be reunited with God to be in paradise for all eternity.
What great joy it is to know that God loves us so much that He sent His Son to remove the old clothes of sin, death, decay, and the devil, and give us a new image that brings glory, honor, and praise to the One who created us in His image.
“For you have taken off your old self with the world’s practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” (Colossians 3:9-10)
As we continue to grow in His image, we must therefore clothe ourselves with the same fruits that that Spirit brings down to us, so that with renewed hearts and minds, we too may live in unity in diversity through community in the Trinity.
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:5-6)
Brandon Odom – Author of “The Mystery of Christ” blog