“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and early loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
I’m not sure when I came across this verse in Colossians, a letter that a man named Paul wrote to a church in the Middle East 2000 years ago. I don’t remember reading it. It wasn’t in a sermon I can recall. And, to my knowledge, I don’t think any friends mentioned it. Nonetheless, five months ago, I wrote it down on a big note card with a bold Sharpie marker. It was written at my coffee table and stayed there for a while.
Time passed. Events happened. Conversations continued.
The index card was tossed one day when I was cleaning up some things and going through some papers. But these verses from the Bible kept coming up. In conversation. Referenced (maybe?) in a book that I was reading. As I prepared to teach. Over and over. Colossians 3:12-14. Then I heard a sermon on following Jesus where this was the teaching passage, so I made the little graphic picture at the start of this blog to use as my phone screen thinking that maybe I could actually memorize it.
Compassion. Kindness. Humility. Gentleness. Patience. Forgiveness. Love.
They’re Christian words that are said and studied and taught all the time. I mean, really, all.the.time. The entire faith hinges on a God who is this, specifically as Jesus here on earth, and if you put your hands in the life of that God, you’re called to a life of incredible opportunity growing in these areas.
The past five months, since these verses crept into my world, life has gotten messy. It’s gotten messy because showing compassion to someone takes patience when I don’t have patience. Being kind calls for sacrifice and inconvenience. Humility means missing out and giving up the right to something I want and deserve. Loving means putting someone else’s interest first, even when it contradicts my best interest. Forgiving means not reacting and instead caring. Patience… “moving at the other person’s pace” (Andy Stanley). And that’s not my pace, my plan, my preference. It’s just not.
I’d like to have some profound conclusion that share stories of how this has been mastered in my life, but the truth is, these past five months have only revealed to me how not good I am at these things. I’ve had opportunities to show kindness and grace, and I’ve woken up the next day feeling a little like Jonah, bitter that God blessed someone else when it didn’t seem fair. I’ve realized that the situations in my life with the people God has placed there may not so much be about them and me but rather about God and me. God cares more about how I am responding than the specific situations at hand. Even if I approach a person and act in a way that does live out these truths and the result seems pointless or awkward, there may be more at stake that I can’t see and he’s changing me. And that’s the important part.