Summary: The context of the passage is about how Christians within a church body are to relate to one another.
Colossians 3:12-13 Church Dress Code
1/4/14 D. Marion Clark
One of the many things I like about my wife is that she simplifies my life. Each day, when I go to my closet, I find the set of clothes that I will be wearing that day. Isn’t that great? I know that I will wear clothes that match and that are appropriate for the occasion scheduled. All I need to do is put the clothes on. We are beginning a five-part series through Colossians 3:12-17 that is about wearing the right clothes.
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.
In the passage before this one, the Apostle Pl spoke about putting away behavior and traits that had been part of the old self before Christ. He wants them to go into their closets, pull out all of the old clothes, and toss them in the trash. These are clothing articles like anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscene talk, and lying. They are to put off the old self wardrobe and put on the new self (new man) wardrobe. Now that they are in Christ, they have a new image to portray – the image of their creator. They need now to wear clothes befitting of who they are in Christ.
Who are they? They are “God’s chosen ones.” This is covenant language. As the nation Israel was chosen to be the covenant nation of God, so now anyone who is in Christ – no matter their race, ethnic heritage, or social status – they belong to the covenant people of God.
Now, as God’s chosen covenant people, they are “holy” and “beloved.” The point is not that the Colossian believers have achieved holiness and are of themselves lovable, but that in Christ – in becoming God’s chosen covenant people – they are set apart for holy purposes and receive the same status of Christ, namely, to be beloved children of God. Again, now that they have received such status, they are to put on clothing that reflects that status. What is that clothing?
For one thing, they are to put on compassionate hearts. They are to feel compassion, feel mercy and pity. They do not help someone in need out of guilt or out of obedience; rather they help because of truly caring for the individual(s).
They are to put on kindness. Like “hearts of compassion” the emphasis is on disposition. The kind person is a warm person, a generous person. He or she sincerely wants good for others and wants to help.
They are to put on humility. This is the same term used in Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” It is an attitude from which we are able to put the needs of others before ourselves.
Then there is meekness. This term can be a little difficult to get a handle on. Another translation is gentleness. Have you ever been in the presence of a celebrity or dignitary or some other status which you highly respected, and who treated you with sincere interest and respect? Not putting on a practiced show of respect but that which is real? “Why, you would have thought that I was somebody important!” That person possesses meekness or gentleness.
And then patience, also translated long-suffering. The following verse explains what is involved in patience: bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other. Patience presupposes suffering of some form. It may be painful suffering or merely being inconvenienced; however great the degree, unpleasant circumstances are involved. In this case the circumstance has to do with relating to others in the church. Another epistle gives examples: “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
Be patient with everyone. Bear with their faults and frailties. And even in the case where someone has offended you so that you have a very real complaint – be forgiving. You have got to do this for a very simple, poignant reason. “The Lord has forgiven you.”
Compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience – these traits form the church dress code. Let’s consider now the implications of such dress regulations.
It is who we are (what we wear) that distinguishes the church.
I titled the sermon “Church Dress Code” as opposed to “Christian Dress Code” to signify that the context of the passage is about how Christians within a church body are to relate to one another. We should show such traits outside the church. Jesus taught that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves and that everyone is our neighbor (Luke 10:25ff). But he also taught his disciples that it would be by their love for one another that they would be known as his disciples (cf. John 13:35).