Anxiety builds as you pace between your closet and your dresser wondering what to wear. Clothes are heaped in various combinations on the floor and bed. Ever been there? Me either. But as the Dad of two young girls who are at the age where clothes really matter I get to witness it from time to time.
[To be fair, this scene is often replicated by me in the kitchen looking for something to eat.]
We -my wife and I – stress the importance of dressing modestly with our girls. But we are having a far more difficult time getting across the need to put on good character as evidenced by recent acts of disrespect and selfishness. Recently during morning devotionals we ran across this verse:
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if someone happens to have a complaint against anyone else. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also forgive others. And to all these virtues add love, which is the perfect bond. [Colossians 3:12-14, NET]
The NET translation’s “clothe yourselves” more clearly captures the essence of what Paul is trying to say than the common rendering of “put on”. The verb is used in other passages in the context of putting on clothes (Mark 1:6; Acts 12:21). And that is the point that Paul is making regarding the need to live out the Christian life. Like getting dressed and covering up our physical bodies with proper clothing we need to put on good character qualities – like compassion/mercy, kindness, and love for others.
The “therefore” in Col 3:12 refers back to what Paul said just prior to that in Col 3:9-10, which can be paraphrased as:
[you] have taken off the old man and have been clothed with the new man.
The truth is that when we have placed our trust in Jesus we are clothed with a new man. And that new man is Christ (Gal 2:20; 3:27). We have also been given the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22-24) and therefore the ability to live our lives for God.
However, I think we can be lulled into the false idea that as a new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17) that these qualities described in the Colossians passage will come automatically and without any effort on our part (contra 2 Pet 1:5).
God has given us a drawer full of clothes therefore we have the clothes we need to put on. But the imagery Paul uses in Colossians fits the reality in which we live because it demonstrates that we need clothes and we need to put them on. We can’t put clothes on that we don’t have. And the clothes we do have don’t jump out of the dresser and onto our bodies without some effort made on our part. Living the Christian life is a synergistic relationship.
Having the clothes and putting them on are two very different things.
While we may not all pace between our closet and dresser trying to figure out what to wear, I think we can all relate to the battle we often fight within – to put on the clothes God has provided or to leave them behind in our closets.
We recently went shopping for clothes and we ran across the Mudd line at Kohls. These sweatshirts are emblazoned across the front with the words love, peace, and smile. As we walked past them I thought – if only putting on these character traits was as easy as buying that sweatshirt and tossing it on. Putting on a sweatshirt emblazoned with the word is easy. Living the Christian life is not. Choosing to act contrary to our natural selfish tendencies and put on compassion and love for someone else while actually letting God transform us from the inside is hard.
But the fact is we have the clothes and we have the choice to put them.
So, from God’s point of view – did you walk out of the house naked today?