Summary: The Supremacy and Sufficiency of Christ, part 16 Maintaining Unity In Community Colossians 3:12-17 David Taylor August 23, 2015
The Supremacy and Sufficiency of Christ, part 16
Maintaining Unity In Community
Paul starts out chapter three telling us that as Christ followers we have died with Christ and have been raised with Christ so set your mind on things above. Negatively, this means to put off or put to death the old self, your old ways of living (vs. 5-11). Positively, it means put on Christ likeness to maintain unity in community. Here Paul is challenging us to live the new life he has given us as it is worked out in community. As irregular people who are 'as is,' rub shoulders with one another, we experience friction, tension, hurt feelings; you cannot avoid it. Many times we don't expect it and don't even like it but those difficulties are God's tool for extending grace to one another and growing together.
First, he tells us to Put On the Character of Christ (vs. 12-14). Paul lists several Christ-like characteristics. So in one sense when you come to faith, you put on Christ but it is also a continuing process in our lives. 'Put on' is the imagery of putting on clothing and with put off, it means to change your clothing or the way of living. It is irregular people becoming more and more regular. Then he describes us as 'chosen ones, holy and beloved.' Chosen is the noun, elect. God's people, Israel under the Old Covenant, and the church under the New Covenant, are identified as elect or chosen by God. Ephesians tells us that we are chosen before the foundation of the world. Before time began, God set his affection on you. The basis of your salvation is ultimately God's choice and not your choice. This rules out any form of works as a means of salvation. And the result is that we are holy, which means set apart. So God chose us out of love and then set us apart as his children. This is the significance of this truth, obedience flows from a place of acceptance and approval and not for acceptance and approval. Salvation is by his free and sovereign grace. And second, like the rest of the New Testament, he uses terminology reserved for Israel and applies it to the church, telling us that the church fulfills Israel as the people of God.
Then he tells us to put on five virtues, 'compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.' These are all relational qualities necessary to maintaining unity in community. Compassion is the ability to identify with and care about people's hurts. Kindness is not having a mean bone in your body. Humility is the opposite of pride. Meekness is being gentle, not harsh. Patience is lovingly enduring with people that try your patience. These are examples of virtues that maintain unity in community. The manner or way in which theses qualities are displayed is by bearing with one another when we rub each other the wrong way. Bearing with one another means more than just tolerating others. It means graciously embracing others who have done something against you. Embracing one another when we are hurt or offended is a hallmark of Christian community. Grace is available to do what goes against your old self. We all have been hurt by others, offended, or intolerant of others. Bearing with one another is the ability to accept, even embrace others for their benefit who are foolish or sinful and try your patience and extend forgiveness toward them. “If one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. The reason for forgiving is that Christ has forgiven you. Neil Anderson says in his book, Bondage Breaker, that “Most of the ground that Satan gains in the lives of Christians is due to unforgiveness.” It isn’t hard to figure out why. Unforgiveness breeds bitterness, resentment, anger, unkindness, and even despair. Forgiveness is choosing to live with the painful consequences of another person’s sin. You have to live with it anyway, so you might as well do it without the bitterness and hatred that threaten to poison your own soul as well as destroy the unity of Christian community. Because Christ has lavished us with forgiveness, we can extend that same grace and forgiveness to each other. That's the beauty of the gospel. We can maintain unity in community by bearing with each other and forgiving each other. In this way forgiveness becomes a means of spiritual warfare, fighting against your own flesh and the devil. Let me give you some helpful advice on grievances. First, expect them. Second, keep short accounts. third, don't take up someone else's offense. Fourth, go directly to the person rather than others. The he says, 'put on love above all else.' Love is the glue that holds all the rest of these characteristics together.