Summary: If we want to live in harmony, we must put on love, put up peace, put in truth, and put forth Christ
Just this last week, I came across a few lessons that humor columnist Dave Barry says took him 50 years to learn. 1) Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night. 2) If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be “meetings.” 3) There is a very fine line between “hobby” and “mental illness.” 4) Never lick a steak knife. 5) A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person. (Dave Barry, Things That It Took Me 50 Years to Learn, http://www.robinsweb.com/inspiration/dave_barry.html; www.PreachingToday.com)
How very true. And though humorous, such lessons can sure save us a lot of grief in life.
In the same way, the Bible has some lessons on relationships that can sure save us a lot of grief in those relationships. There is a path to harmony even in what potentially could be the most divisive relationships. There is a way to come together even when our differences fight to tear us apart.
The Bible talks about the fact that Christ, through the cross, brought many different kinds of people together in one body. So here we are where the potential for discord and destructive conflict is great. But in that context, the Bible also shows us how to get along with each other. So if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Colossians 3, Colossians 3, where the Bible shows us that path to harmony.
Colossians 3:12-14 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 whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (NIV)
If we want to live in harmony with each other, then first of all we must…
PUT ON LOVE.
We must clothe ourselves with a sacrificial, unconditional commitment to one another. We must dress ourselves with an unwavering dedication and devotion to those in this body.
Love is not a feeling. It’s an act of the will whereby I choose to be kind, I choose to be gentle, I choose to be patient, I choose to forgive (or more literally, to give grace) to you, even if I have a grievance or complaint with you or another brother or sister in Christ.
This is the kind of commitment we must have TOWARDS one another if we’re going to get along WITH one another. Otherwise, we’ll just tear each other apart, especially with all our differences.
The Bible lists seven virtues in these verses: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, and forgiveness. Now, seven is the number of perfection in the Bible, so these seven give us a perfect picture of love, the highest of all virtues. More than that, they show us how to come together in “perfect unity.” In other words, if we want to live in perfect harmony with each other, we must put on this perfect love.
It’s a love pictured in Mark Buchanan’s book, Hidden in Plain Sight. In that book, he talks about a woman named Regine, originally from Rawanda. She came to Christ while reading her sister’s Bible during the genocide that ravaged her country. When she fled to Canada for refuge, she met her husband, Gordon. Later, they decided to return to Rwanda to show the love of Christ to the people who had once been her enemies, and this is the story Regine told Mark:
A woman's only son was killed. She was consumed with grief and hate and bitterness. “God,” she prayed, “reveal my son's killer.”
One night she dreamed she was going to heaven. But there was a complication: in order to get to heaven she had to pass through a certain house. She had to walk down the street, enter the house through the front door, go through its rooms, up the stairs, and exit through the back door.
She asked God whose house this was.
“It's the house,” he told her, “of your son's killer.”
The road to heaven passed through the house of her enemy.
Two nights later, there was a knock at her door. She opened it, and there stood a young man. He was about her son's age.
He hesitated. Then he said, “I am the one who killed your son. Since that day, I have had no life. No peace. So here I am. I am placing my life in your hands. Kill me. I am dead already. Throw me in jail. I am in prison already. Torture me. I am in torment already. Do with me as you wish.”