Colossians 3:12–17 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 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. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Somehow, I do not know exactly how or when, but the idea that we grow in Christ has taken a back seat to once-for-all thinking, in areas it doesn’t belong.
It is true, that some things in Christianity are once for all. Things like Justification, or being born again. These are one time events which are never repeated. But just as in our natural birth, we are “born” only once, that’s not the whole story. We are never MORE human than the day we were conceived. And yet there is a whole lot of growing up into our humanness that needs to take place. Maturity never happens all at once. It is a process. And so it is with a text like ours today.
When we read a set of imperatives like we see in this passage, and hosts of others, we must keep from imagining that we “put on” once, and that’s the end of it. Just like physical clothing, we get dressed every day. Spiritual clothing is the very same in this respect.
Compassion is not put on once, and then – ZAPPO! – we simply are compassionate from then on. We need to put on compassionate hearts, as often as we are called upon to be compassionate. The same with kindness – it is not one act of kindness, but a lifestyle of putting on kindness repeatedly. Again, this is the same with humility, we don’t just “get” humble we keep on humbling ourselves, and being patient with others and bearing with one another and forgiving one another, etc.
These are not once-for-all bestowals or radical changes to our entire being in a lump – they are the daily working out of our salvation. And if we are serious about it, it is done with fear and trembling.
Alexander Whyte quotes an anonymous ancient source as saying: “The perseverance of the saints, is made up of ever new beginnings.” That’s right. The Christian is starting over again all the time. 1000 times a day. No, not getting saved again – but starting over in living out our redemption. Every misstep, every failure, every sin, every neglect of holy things, every slide back into fleshly thoughts, attitudes and behaviors. As Luther said, the Christian life is a life of repentance – constant, repetitive repentance.
Do not give up because you need to start afresh in some area today Christian – this is nature of the Christian life. Your perseverance will be wrought out in that endless chain of picking up, putting on – anew. Until the day when all is perfected in us by His Spirit. Keep putting on!