Summary: God has called us to a new life and new relationships that embody the character of Christ, embrace the peace of Christ, engage in the worship of Christ and exalt the name of Christ.
Holiness and Relationships
Text: Colossians 3:12-17
Introduction: This week, as we continue in our series, "In the World, But Not of It," I want to address the topic of holiness and relationships. Before we get started, I would like to preface my message by telling you that the principles found in this passage pertain to any relationship, and so should be appropriated across the board. Today, however, we’re going to attempt to apply them to the marriage partnership. Even as I say this, there are some of you who are thinking to yourselves, "Save your breath preacher. What you’re going to share might work for some, but it isn’t going to make a difference in my marriage." Maybe you have come to the point in your relationship with your spouse where you have either resigned yourself to live with something far less than the ideal, or maybe you’re beginning to entertain thoughts of getting out while there’s still time to find true happiness. For too many people marriage seems to be nothing short of a three-ring circus. There’s the engagement ring, the wedding ring, and suff-ring. Who knows? Perhaps you feel like the man who knew his honeymoon was over when he attempted to fix the attic fan. In the process he managed to scratch his forehead on a crossbeam, pick up splinters in both hands, and draw blood while replacing the fan belt. On the way down the ladder, he missed a step and sprained his ankle. As he limped into the kitchen, bleeding and in pain, his wife took one look at him and said, "Are those your good pants?"
In his book, Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas attempts to provide Christians with a different perspective on the primary purpose for marriage. He argues that God’s fundamental intent is not to make us happy, but holy. "It is," he says, "the crucible that grinds and shapes us into the character of Jesus Christ." Have you ever thought about marriage in this way? It might just be possible that God has called you into a relationship with your spouse so that you might learn to love someone in the same way that God loves you (See Jeremiah 31:3 - "I have loved you with an everlasting love..."). If this is true, then you and I have to consider something we likely have never thought before. God has led us to our mates because in our marriage to them we have been provided with the best possible environment for becoming a holy man or woman. (Repeat this statement.) Now let’s look at how we can build holy relationships.
Background: In the paragraph preceding our text from Colossians 3, the Apostle Paul calls on all believers to rid ourselves of anything that belongs to our earthly (fallen) nature. We are to do this by putting to death those offenses that were a part of our former way of life (i.e. sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed, anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language). Now in verses 12-17 the mood changes from focusing on the negative to the positive. One commentator likened it to coming out of darkness into the light of day. The same motivation that prompts Christians to cast off our old ways encourages us to embrace new ones. Paul then goes on to explain in greater detail how this new life plays itself out in our relationships.
I. Our relationships (i.e. marriages) are holy when we embody the character of Christ (See Colossians 3:12-14). As God’s new creatures we are called to live as His chosen people, holy (set apart) and dearly loved. These words, applied to Israel in the Old Testament and to Jesus in the New Testament (See 1 Peter 2:4; John 6:69; Ephesians 1:6), are now used here of all who follow Christ.
A. Compassion (lit. "bowels of mercies" because the tender emotions were thought to flow from the bowels...the interior parts of a person). This refers to a deep sensitivity to the needs and sorrows of others that results in taking action (See Mark 6:34).
B. Kindness. The Psalmist says, "Taste and see that the Lord is kind, i.e. good (See Psalm 34:8; Proverbs 12:25)." It is in our expressions of kindness, not merely to those who have been kind to us, but to the ungrateful and wicked, that we identify ourselves as sons of the Most High (See Luke 6:35).
C. Humility. It is the opposite of pride. Just like in some circles today, humility was not esteemed as a virtue in the ancient unbelieving world. The Jews were different of course. They believed that man must humble himself in order to walk with God (See Micah 6:8). Humility, lowliness of mind, was also fitting for followers of Christ, who is described as "gentle and lowly in heart (See Matthew 11:29).