Clothe Yourselves With Love
12 Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (NIV)
Paul does not cut us any slack. He gets right to the heart of where we live. All relationships get sticky sometimes. When we are attempting to live for the glory of God and God begins to bless us, it seems that the enemy always sticks his nose in and tries to distract us from what is most important.
The church is called to love God and love one another. More than any thing else we do, forgiveness and mercy demonstrate to the world that we really do love one another. People are drawn to Christ when they see Him working in us; when we are forgiving and loving as Christ has loved us. This is more important than doing everything according to the by-laws, or using the best business practices. It is not that these other things are not important, but our first priority is always to love one another.
Anyone can teach the word. Loving our enemies is hard. When our enemies are the ones who should be our closest allies, loving our enemies becomes even harder. This is the love we are called to demonstrate, to live out in this world.
Loving our enemies is hard and it can only truly be accomplished as we are led by the Holy Spirit. Our flesh will lead us to protect ourselves. The Spirit will lead us to seek protection in Him. Our flesh will find fault with others and attribute to them less than honorable motives. The Spirit will help us see the faults in our own motives and He will empower us to overcome those faults.
The flesh will point out where the other person is wrong. The Spirit will lead us to love and forgive them and allow the Lord to point out to them where they are wrong. The flesh will lead us to defend our position. The Spirit will lead us to trust the Lord to defend us and lead us to respond in love and grace to those who would attack us.
We are not talking about murder and rape and violent behaviors like these. We are talking about the day to day interactions we have with one another in our families, in our church and in our community. When more are learning to deal with our conflicts by listening to the Spirit instead of the flesh, there will be less violence. Fewer disagreements will end up in the extreme actions we too often see in our world today.
When we begin to train our children to respond to hate with love, to listen to the Spirit instead of the flesh, we will see fewer school shootings such as we have in our society today. When the hatred and violence reach the point of murder and physical violence society needs to have in place the means to deal with those who have lost control of themselves. We must protect one another in such extreme cases. Unfortunately what was one thought to be extreme cases seems now to be the norm.
In verse 12, the first one we read this morning, Paul reminds us of who we are. We are “God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved”. I do not know about you, but I need to be reminded… frequently… that God loves me. I am dearly loved. God cherishes me. He desires to live in fellowship with me day in and day out. This is true for all people. It is especially true for those who believe, those who have put their faith in God who expressed His great love for us through His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
I am holy, not because of the goodness in me, but because the holy God has taken up residence in me. He leads me… when I listen… to live a life dedicated to His service. I am holy because of what Christ has done for me and within me. Earlier Paul said we died with Christ, we were raised with Him, and we will appear with Him when He returns. Our identity is based on what Christ has done for us and what He is doing in us.
The flesh wallows in guilt and shame. The flesh finds excuses for the way it behaves. The flesh labels its failures and thinks it cannot be better and says, “this is just the way I am” or “blames others for their failures”. “They make me so mad.” “If you hadn’t done what you did, then I would not have responded in the way I did.” The flesh tries to hide from others and from God.
The Spirit says, “Come to me and I will give you rest”. The Spirit leads us to confess and continue to believe that God loves us. The Spirit leads us to trust God and to grow in our belief that He loves us. The Spirit, as our Lord, leads us to love Him and love those He loves (that is all other people in case you are wondering). The Spirit leads us to confess our failures, our short comings and our sin and then get up and move on.
The flesh says it cannot help the way it is and lives in defeat and refuses to listen to the Spirit. The flesh says, “I am only human.” The Spirit says, “Yes, you are human, but if you listen to me and follow me you will be the best human you can possibly be.”
The Spirit says, “12 Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (NIV)
This is the nitty-gritty of how we present ourselves as living sacrifices. This is the day to day worship of God as we listen to Him and make the choice to change from the sinful human being we were into the glorious creation that God intends us to be.
Putting off the flesh and putting on the Spirit, is how we deny ourselves and take up the cross and follow Christ.
If your devotions are not leading you to change, then perhaps you are performing a ritual instead of spending time with God. If coming to church doesn’t help you to become better at loving God and loving others, then perhaps church has become something God never intended it to be. It may have become another way the flesh is expressing its nature. Most of the harshest criticisms Jesus uttered were aimed at those who thought they were being faithful to God.
Put off the old man, the flesh, and put on the new man who is a new creation, created for good works. Those good works are not following a set of rules but come as we walk in fellowship with the God who loves us so much He wants to be with us all the time. He wants us to always be aware that He is present with us. He is Emmanuel, God with us.
17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (NIV)
When you do something in the name of someone else, you are acting under their authority. You are doing what they would do if they were there. You are their steward. You are acting on their behalf, to increase their influence in the world.
Whatever we do, all our actions, words, thoughts, should reflect the desires and the nature of our Lord Jesus Christ. His influence in the world will be increased when others see Him changing the world, beginning in me.
The other day I sent a text to a friend. I thought of them, and I sent them a short prayer. The prayer was more for me than it was for them. I typed, “Father, be near to us today. Help us to recognize what you are doing and praise You even when we do not understand.”
This friend sent a text back, “How do you know just when to pray or send that to me at just the right time? It’s amazing!”
I responded, “I do not know, but He does.”
This came back, “Thank you and thank you Lord!! I needed that! I was tripping bc (because) I have been getting rejection calls from those jobs I interviewed for and I was starting to get down. Yes and thank you for allowing Him to work thru (you) for me.”
I had no idea what this person was going through at the time I sent the text. As I said, the prayer was as much for me as it was for this other person. I had just wanted to let them know I was thinking about them and was sharing a prayer for me. God knew what they were going through. He orchestrated this event to bless both of us.
When we listen to God and we do as He leads us to do, others will be blessed and drawn nearer to Him. We will also be blessed. As we practice listening and obeying we will grow in our ability to hear and to respond in love to the God who has proven He loves us.
Clothe yourselves with Love!