12 Therefore, God's chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, 13 accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must [forgive]. 14 Above all, [put on] love-the perfect bond of unity. 15 And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful. 16 Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. 18 Wives, be submissive to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and don't become bitter against them. — Colossians 3:12-19
Put on Love, the Perfect Bond of Unity
by Steve Smith
What does it say about us as believers that we tend to treat strangers better than we do our own family? For me, perhaps this is an effect of the Southern culture I grew up in. By default, we’ve been taught to put strangers ahead of ourselves, whether it’s holding a door for them, letting them go ahead of us in line at the grocery store if they have fewer items than we do, or teaching our children to look the other way when we witness someone behaving badly in public.
We’ll often step over our own family members (figuratively and literally) to show that we’re being “respectful” to a stranger. These behaviors may seem foreign to people of other cultures or even other parts of the United States. But in the South they’re just the “proper” things to do.
In this passage in Colossians, Paul is clearly writing to believers about how they were to treat one another (vv. 12-13, 15-16). Perhaps this is an admonishment that our first priority is to treat those who are part of the family of faith with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (v. 12). And when we do, the result is a love that “binds [us] together in perfect unity” (v. 14).
Now, granted, it’s not clear whether this means love binds together these virtues into a garment of Christ-like character (following the theme of clothing ourselves with these virtues), or if love binds together the members of the faith community into oneness. But either way, the message is clear that this is how we are to respond to and treat one another in the body of Christ.
In her book For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards, author and blogger Jen Hatmaker writes, "There is a clear correlation between how we treat each other and how a watching world will feel about Jesus. What should our neighbors deduce from our loving-kindness toward one another? One, that we obviously belong to Jesus, because what other explanation exists for such beautiful community? It should be so compelling that others interpret it as other-worldly; these people must belong to God. And according to Jesus, God’s calling card is love. If folks don’t recognize God is good by watching His people, then we have tragically derailed."
If this is how a community of believers is to love, how much more should we love own families? The last part of this chapter in Colossians deals with the three sets of relationships in the “household”: husband and wife, parent and child, and master and slave. I’ll only speak here to husband and wife, since that’s where our focus passage ends.
These two short verses (18-19) have become lightning rods for controversy over the roles of men and women in the home and, by extension, in society. There’s not space here to unpack all of those debates, but here’s only to say that in the context of this passage, the central theme is love. Wives are to love their husbands and submit to his spiritual authority as being God-ordained, and husbands are to love their wives sacrificially, as Christ loved the Church.
We should all be challenged to examine the way we think and act towards those who are part of our family of faith and—perhaps even more so—those who are part of our immediate family.
- In what ways can you express love for your fellow Christians? How can that expression be a testimony to unbelievers about who Christ is and what He’s done in your life?
- When was the last time you expressed your love for your spouse in a way that was truly genuine and heart-felt? How can you show that kind of love to your spouse today?
- For the next week, try speaking with only positive, encouraging, and loving messages and tones to your spouse and see what happens as a result!
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.