?December 27, 2009
First Sunday After Christmas Day
Colossians 3:12-17

If God’s people wore a uniform, what would it look like? In our text is a three-fold description of God’s people. First, we are God’s chosen people. We are selected from every race and tribe, every rank and culture, highborn and low, from factory and farm, from shop and from ships at sea. We are selected to make up His own people.
Second, we are God’s Holy people. We are set apart for His sacred use. That’s what it means to be sanctified. We are separated from worldly defilement and reserved for divine use. The Levitical laws often repeated like a mantra, “Ye shall be holy unto me, for I the Lord your God am holy.” And the New Testament letters often repeated that refrain.
Third, we are God’s dearly loved people. The same word that John used to describe the relationship that marks the Father’s love for His only begotten Son is used also to describe God’s love for us.
Then there follows a list of graces that the Father means to adorn our lifestyle. There are seven of these in the list plus love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. We are called to “put on these graces” as if they are our uniform.
1. Compassion. This is a word that very often described Jesus. “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them” (Matthew 9:36; see also Matthew 14:14; Matthew 15:32). When Jesus saw the blind, He had compassion on them and touched their eyes and gave them sight. Recall in the parable of the waiting father that it was his compassion that propelled the father to run to receive the prodigal.
2. Kindness. While the concept is not at all strange to the Gospels, this particular Greek word does not appear in the Gospels and only three other times in the New Testament (2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 2:7Titus 3:4). The word stresses the goodness and mercy of kindness, and it speaks of doing what is right or useful or beneficial.
3. Humility. In the prior chapter, Paul said much about a false humility of certain people caught up in self-imposed rituals vainly attempting to restrain sensual indulgence. Such pseudo-humility is useless. True humility, however, is a character trait that ought to adorn every believer.
4. Gentleness. This is not “meekness” (AV), if that brings to mind a character like Dickens’ Uriah Heap or the old Casper Milquetoast stereotype. Think instead of the perfect gentleman who said, “Neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more.”
5. Patience. The Amplified Translation of Kenneth Wuest identifies this character quality as, “Patience which is tireless … and has the power to endure whatever comes with good temper.” In the KJV it is often translated “longsuffering.” When I was a child I was frequently criticized, and justly so, for impatience. The trials of life correct that in time. “Tribulation worketh patience.”
6. Forbearance. This is the ability to endure an irritating person, to give patient attention to someone who needs it but may not deserve it. Small children need and demand so much attention. Aren’t you glad the heavenly Father is not so easily driven to exasperation as we are with our little ones?
7. Forgiveness. In a parable of Jesus, two men were hopelessly in debt: “‘Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?’ Simon replied, ‘I supposed the one who had the bigger debt canceled'” (Luke 7:42-43).
To forgive is to deal generously with someone. It is to release a prisoner, to cancel a debt.
If these seven graces were the uniform of all Christians, we would still need one more to cap them off. In the Vietnam War, the Green Beret became a symbol of valor and loyalty to those who earned it. Men in the Special Forces wore it like a garland. For the Christian, love is such a cap for all the other graces. “Over all these virtues, put on love which binds them all together in perfect unity” (v. 14).

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