“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:12-14, ESV).
These verses are among the most difficult verses in the Scripture because of what they require; indeed, the requirements are impossible for the natural man. First, the language of this text is not passive, involving the activity of putting things on. The assumption is that such attire is not very familiar. It is similar to what Paul wrote in Ephesians 4, exhorting his readers to work at changing their lives for the sake of Christlikeness. One cannot make changes without shedding the old “clothes” and putting on new (vv. 20-27).
Second, the issues have to do with bringing into sync the believer’s standing (as positionally holy) with his state (as actually unholy) in order to be truly holy. Believers are filled with the residue of their fallen natures. Therefore, God places on them the responsibility to purge out the Adamic dregs and to fill that void with the character qualities of Christ. This duty is not an option. One cannot argue that, due to the difficulty, God should cut some slack. God does not do so because He expects to enable the impossible. Although the process is not easy, the objective is worth it—to be like Jesus. Oh, to be like Him! True believers have that yearning deep in their souls, although the cry is often drowned out by deaf and distracted ears. However, when hunger for change is strong enough—when the dissatisfaction with one’s old life is intolerable—one will do what it takes to obey God’s directive.
That brings us to do some serious soul-searching. “What is lacking in my conformity to Christ?” Paul saw that natural relationships follow either from rivalry (competition to be better than others) or from conceit (the prideful arrogance that one already is better than others) (Philippians 2:3). Love (the gift/fruit of the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:22) is the cure for these maladies because love is compassionate and kind. A loving person is humble and meek, like Jesus, counting others more significant than himself.
Jesus lived for the sake of others. So must we, but to do so requires that we do the hard things. We love our comfort zone, and we do not like the mess that others make. We do not like the time or the waiting that is required. We do not like the uncertainty that our sacrifices may not yield the anticipated goal. We hate the misunderstanding, the suspicion, the opposition, and the rejection that might come. We cannot always see the work God is doing through us. However, we must do this work. If we love Jesus, we obey Him (John 14:15).