November 7, 2017
Compassion. Kindness. Humility. Gentleness. Patience.
I have always thought of these as the goals or the outcomes of the life hid with Christ in God. I am beginning to understand them as the ways and means to get to the goals and outcomes. Because I understand life primarily through the lens of my individual-ness, I think of these things primarily as individual pursuits.
To be sure, Paul is talking about individual responsibility, but his end game is not a bunch of isolated individuals trying to behave, living in towns, cities and suburbs and loosely connected through the building across town commonly referred to as the church.
Paul gives us the ground game strategy for a changed world. It happens when a group of people do this:
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
This is what Paul means by “Church”, the temple of the living God, the place where the Holy Spirit is pleased to dwell and the home of miracles.
Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience aren’t virtues to which we must aspire. No, they are our uniform. Think of them as the pads a football player wears in order to play the game. Mustn’t this be what Paul means when he says, “clothe yourselves?”
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Doesn’t that feel like protective gear meant to preserve our fragile selves and relationships in the midst of a world where sin destroys us and causes us to destroys each other? Because we have died with Christ and are now raised with Christ we have been given a new uniform. Before, these were just clothes in the window of a store we could never afford to enter. Now they are the uniforms in our very closets. Football players don’t put on their pads because they feel like it. They put them on so they can play the game.
When we put on this gear and live out our lives together we create the kind of community that changes the world. We become like a burning bush, on fire but not being consumed. People can’t look away. In fact, the closer they get the more they hear the voice of God whispering, “Come closer. Holy ground! Take off your shoes.”
Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience create the conditions where the Holy Spirit heals wounded people, mends broken relationships and reverses intractable situations. These are not things that I do, nor are they outcomes that we can accomplish together. These are the things only God can do and these are the kinds of communities where he does them.
Abba Father, we thank you for your son, Jesus, who is the very embodiment of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Thank you for the way he has not only forgiven us but the ways he continues to bear with us. Show me what it means to put on these clothes in the power of the Spirit and to stop seeing them as impossible ways to manage my behavior. We pray in Jesus name. Amen.
- How do you understand the big idea (individual behavior management vs. community mentality) I am trying to communicate today? Is it making sense?
- What do you make of the clothing (i.e. “football pads”) metaphor with respect to compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and so forth?
- Have you ever been in a transformative community who put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience and who genuinely forgave and bore with each other? What happened?
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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. firstname.lastname@example.org.