Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. - Colossians 3: 12-13 (NLT)
Continuing on in the exposition of the opening of the third chapter of Paul's letter to the Church at Colossae we come to verses 12 and 13. In the last devotional we saw the various things we must take off, or get rid of now that Christ is all that should matter in our lives. God never merely provides one side of the story and today we will see that there are things we must "put on" as well to live the victorious Christian life we hear so much about as believers. Verse twelve however reveals a deeper truth first. We are not saved to be ordinary. We are not saved to behave as the rest of the world does. We are saved to be holy people, whom God loves. This shows us that there are two sides to this relationship with God. One of the greatest problems within the seeker friendly world of churchianity is that it cheapens the love of God. It seeks to separate out the truth of God from His love and there can be no such separation:
Grace, mercy, and peace, which come from God the Father and from Jesus Christ--the Son of the Father--will continue to be with us who live in truth and love. - 2John 1: 3 (NLT)
Christianity requires something from us. It requires us to strive to be different. It requires us to strive for holiness. The definition of holy is to be set apart for God. God did not save us to be fence sitters - half in the world and half in the faith. God most certainly loves us with an everlasting love but when you strip out our requirement of holiness from the equation you are left with an unbalanced love. A love that does not require anything of us does not set us apart from the world. God loves us so much that He does not want us to return to the ways of the world. He does not want us living lives steeped in sin, devoid of His power. So often we can find ourselves outside the realm of living the victorious Christian life because we are part time Christians. We play the part. We go to church. We make our offerings. We serve in a purpose driven ministry. Then we go home and dabble in whatever the world still offers us and think that it is somehow OK. Trouble and struggle we can expect but victory is still promised.
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." - John 16: 33 (NLT)
We cannot overcome the world through Christ if we insist on staying in it. If we insist on straddling the fence. Holiness is not a part time endeavor. It requires all of our attention to be focused on God not on the trappings of this world. How do we get there? We start by purposing in our heart what we are going to "wear." We saw this analogy started in the last devotional when we discussed all of the anger, rage and malice we need to make sure we take off but here Paul shows us what we need to put on as well. The clothing picture shows us that it must be a conscious decision on our part every single day. The enemy never stops in his relentless attacks on us and we need to be just as relentless in making sure we are wearing the right clothes.
The first garment we are to put on is tenderhearted mercy. The King James Version says "bowels" of mercy, indicating the depth from which our mercy must derive. It cannot be superficial. It cannot be dependent upon anything other than the mercy God has already shown us. Even though he had evangelized the known world Paul considered himself the least of the Apostles because he "once persecuted the church." Too many Christians display no mercy because we forget where God found us. We start to think that we somehow earned the righteousness of Christ even though the Bible says our righteousness is but filthy rags. When the world views the church too often they see a very unforgiving, unyielding, and judgmental set of people. It is not our job to convict the world of their sin - it is our job to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them. The world is cruel and unmerciful so the church must be the opposite - tender hearted and abounding in mercy. Churches were not meant to be entertainment venues for the saved but rather triage units for the lost. How important is mercy to God? It is one of the three things He requires from us: