12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.
14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.
15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.
On a day like today—which happens to be the anniversary of my marriage—it’s easy to focus on love. Pretty much all I could think about from the moment my wife’s alarm went off this morning was how much I love her and how special was that day four years ago when we met face-to-face at the Bible study I was leading. We had actually spoken a few times on the phone in the few days before, having been introduced to each other by a mutual friend. But that morning when she followed through on my invitation to come to the study—well, that was the clincher. That morning, she showed she loved Christ as well as being interested in me, and that made me even more interested in her. The fact that she is beautiful was just icing on the cake, so to speak.
So, for the two of us, love is the theme of the day today. But as I meditate on love, I cannot help but think about how love isn’t supposed to be a once-a-year thing. In our lives, my beloved wife and I don’t make a big deal of Valentine’s Day, because for us every day is a day to show our love. Love is a full-on, everyday, natural thing. It is, as Paul says in today’s passage, the “bond of perfection.”
But look at how Paul sets up that description. Echoing his passage on the fruit of the Spirit in his letter to the Galatians, Paul says we are to “put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another.” And we are to do this not just because it is a good idea and makes for a more civil society. We are to do this because in so doing we imitate Christ who forgave us.
Our whole goal as believers is not to be ourselves anymore but to become more like Jesus Christ, our sinless Lord who died for our sins. Jesus died for us because He loves us, and that is the ultimate expression of love. How then can we who claim to love God and follow Him do any less? How can we be allow “fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col 3:5) to remain in our lives and still claim to be in Christ? How can we let “anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language” (Col 3:8) be part of our everyday behavior when we know that Christ went to the Cross for us?
When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus spoke the simplest treatise on godliness: Love God first, and love your neighbor as yourself. What He said next is the part that people often forget: “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt 22:40) What he was saying to the Jewish lawyer was that for all your searching through Scripture for the most important laws—i.e. the ones to which you must most closely obey—you will be lost if you don’t love God and others, because all the laws that God has laid down for us depend on our love for Him. Without loving God, it is impossible to obey God and fulfill the law.
Which brings us back to Paul’s letter to the Colossians…
Paul’s concern was that the Colossians were being led astray by someone preaching something other than the gospel Paul himself had originally preached. Someone was telling them they needed to adhere to Jewish laws and customs—that certain foods were forbidden, that certain people were not worthy of their fellowship, that their way to God was through works rather than the blood of Christ. So Paul wrote to them that it is ALL about Christ and what He has already done for us. We are to lay aside the backbiting and prejudices of our past life and instead focus on the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. And so his letter leads up to this beautiful passage before us today, where Paul reminds them that love for God is what makes them complete. In God’s eyes, there is “neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.” (Col 3:11) Knowing that Christ is all that we believers should concern ourselves with, and that He is in us if we believe, how then ought we to live?
“But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.”
Paul speaks not of erotic love (Greek eros) nor even of brotherly love (Greek philos), but of Godly love (Greek agape). It is love for God that is the “bond of perfection”, the bond of completeness. It is love for God that brings people together and that gives them that Christlike ability to forgive, to have mercy, to show grace, to be humble, kind, and meek. And it is love for God that must be the center of our love for one another. The apostle John agreed with Paul:
1 John 4:19-21
19 We love Him because He first loved us.
20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?
21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.
And so today, as I reflect upon the love I have for my beautiful wife Teresa, I remember that it was and is our love for God that binds us together so perfectly. It was our love for God that our friend saw in us before she introduced us. It was our love for God that we discussed in several long phone calls before we ever laid eyes on one another. It was our love for God that drew us to the same place four years ago today. And it is our love for God that keeps us loving each other. Yes, we have our ups and downs like any couple, but through it all we know we must be merciful and forgiving, just as Christ was with us. Bound together in love for God, the peace of God (generally) rules in our hearts. Together, we are being perfected into the image of His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen and amen.
Heavenly Father, I cannot thank you enough for my beloved wife and the life we share. Through trials and storms, through joys and celebration, You are the center and peace of our lives. We rejoice in Your mercy, Lord, and humbly ask that You continue to guide us and perfect us. Help us, Lord God, to serve and obey You better all the days of our lives. Amen.
© 2014 Glenn A. Pettit