As we conclude our study through Colossians 3:12-17, Paul has a very specific application for us, as we love one another. Look at verse 15: let peace rule. We put on the clothing of peace. We are members of one body, and we are called to peace. Then he mentions another piece of clothing: thankfulness. How does a church put on the clothing of peace and thankfulness in their love toward another? Paul gives four principles to help us.
First, in verse 16, we put on the clothing of peaceful love when the word of Christ dwells in us richly, or abundantly. How do we do this? When Paul wrote this, he was talking to people who did not have Bibles. So how did they do this? What “word of Christ” is he talking about? He is talking about teaching in letters like this one we’re studying, Colossians, which would become part of the library that we call the Bible. He is talking about the teaching of Jesus as communicated by Jesus himself and by the other apostles, or from the leaders in a church family. It is the teaching of the Kingdom of God, the teaching of the way of Jesus, how to live like he lived.
But how does that word dwell in us abundantly? Those first Christians couldn’t get out Bibles or apps on phones, so they had to use their minds to remember the teaching, and then think about how to apply that teaching to their lives. It was an intentional effort to think about the word of God and consider how to live it.
You and I have access to the Bible, so we have a wonderful privilege of studying it on our own and together. Read it, ponder it (which is the biblical idea of meditation, which is deep thinking on the teaching of the Bible, so that you can apply it to your life), memorize it, discuss it with others. This should not be a solo practice but a community collaborative practice. This is why small groups are important. In your classes and small groups, each and every one should be discussing how we live out the word of God in our actual lives.
Second Paul says we put on the clothing of peaceful love when we teach and admonish one another with wisdom. This is related to having the word of Christ dwell in us, but now Paul emphasizes teaching and admonishing. In Paul’s day, there was no Bible for people to dwell on, so teaching was the primary way the people were exposed to the word of Christ. Obviously, our situation is very different. We have tons of access to the word of God, to teaching of the word.
That’s why I think it is very important for us to focus on the concept of discipleship when we talk about teaching admonishing. These two ideas involve not just getting biblical content or information in our minds, but having a person and a group of people to help us, to mentor us, to teach us how to live the Kingdom way in our real lives. This is also why participating in regular weekly Christian community is vital. Participation on Sunday mornings and in small groups. We need admonishing. The word, “admonishing,” means, “to advise someone concerning the dangerous consequences of some happening or action.” (Louw & Nida) It is a warning. Paul is saying that when we gather, we open up the truth of our lives to one another, and we hear loving correction and warning from one another. This requires that we are present with one another. While I believe face to face in-person is best, other forms of communication can help. But if asked, we should all be able to list, “Here is who I confess to, this is when I confessed, and this is who confronts me.”
Third, we are put on the clothing of peaceful love when we sing with gratitude! Musical worship is important, I think, because it taps into our emotions in a unique way. Have you ever noticed that about music? It is a powerful force, isn’t it? Singing helps us set our hearts and minds on things above. This is one reason we include musical worship in our worship services each week. But you can do so throughout the week as well. Listen to worship when you drive. In your home, in your office. I use Spotify, and I love listening to music. Lately a lot of Johnny Cash. What a voice, and what a great story-teller. I don’t agree with some of the messages he communicates in his songs, but I find him to be a gritty, realistic inspiration. Compare music with other media. For example, I also love podcasts. But what I have noticed is that there is no end to podcasts, TV shows, movies, articles, books, content. In our world, it is literally impossible to keep up. That means we have to pick and choose what we fill our minds with. Let the word dwell in you abundantly, and sing with gratitude in your hearts.
Fourth, we put on the clothing of peaceful love when whatever we do, we do it in the name of Jesus. When I read this list in verse 16 I was tempted to think that Paul was talking about a worship service. Look at the first three he mentioned already: Bible, preaching, and singing. Three typical elements of a worship service, right?
But then in verse 17, Paul expands our view to all of life. We are not, therefore, to just relegate God or our spiritual lives to a church service, and check it off the list, as if that is all God cares about. Paul says that in whatever we do, whether it is the words we use or the deeds we do, we do it all in the name of Jesus. That’s at home, in front of our screens, at school, at work, on the sports field, in the neighborhood, in our car. Every single place we go. Every single thing we do, we make all of it an act of worship. No matter the time of day or the activity we’re involved in, we seek with our hearts and we focus with our minds the things above.
Are you actively intentionally putting on the clothes of peaceful love? Are there any that you know you need to work on adding to your life? Talk about it with someone. That’s where it starts! Admit what is lacking in life. Confess it to God. Then confess it to others. Repent, which means restoring relationship with God and others. It means a change. It means taking action to restore relationship. What action do you need to take?
You won’t be disappointed, because this set of clothing that God wants to give us is fabulous.