“Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” Colossians 3:12-13
As the elect and chosen of God, holy and dearly loved children of God through faith in Christ Jesus and for the sake of His innocent sufferings and death in our stead (cf. Gal. 3:26-27), we are called upon to put on the image and likeness of Christ Jesus.
We were baptized into Christ. All our sins and our old sinful nature were crucified on Christ’s cross. We have been raised up to new life by the gracious working (operation) of the Holy Ghost (Col. 2:10-15). We daily — through repentance and faith — put off the old sinful nature and put on the new (Col. 3:5ff.). And so we are called upon to be like Jesus in our dealings with others, and especially with our fellow believers.
We are to put on “bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”
From our innermost being — from the heart — we are to be merciful and kind toward others. Why? Because we know God’s mercy and kindness toward us. Even when we were spiritually dead in our sins and living in rebellion against God, He showed mercy to us and sent His only-begotten Son to die in our stead and redeem us (Rom. 5:8; John 3:16). Even though we continually sin and come short in our lives, He shows us mercy and washes away our sins in Jesus’ blood (1 John 1:7 — 2:2).
When we remember how Jesus humbled Himself, not appearing in a display of all His divine glory and power but living humbly as a man and even permitting His enemies to crucify Him that He might redeem all of fallen mankind, certainly we have every reason to live humbly and not usurp ourselves or our position over others. In the same way Jesus lived in this world as a servant to meet our needs and win our eternal salvation, so we ought to think and live as servants in this world to meet the needs of others and bring to them the message of God’s redeeming love.
Longsuffering and forbearing with one another means that we are to be patient with others and put up with their failings and shortcomings — we suffer much and long and are yet patient. And, indeed, when we consider the patience, longsuffering and forbearance of God toward us, we again have every reason to show the same longsuffering and forbearance toward others.
Again and again, each of us fails to live as God intends — we go our own way, think we know better or just neglect to listen — and yet God doesn’t cast us off or condemn us. He continues to deal with us in mercy and patience.
And, instead of holding another’s sins and misdeeds against him, we are called upon to forgive as Christ has forgiven us. And, indeed, if we consider the great debt of sin which Christ has forgiven to us — even going to the cross and shedding His holy and precious blood to pay our just penalty — what is the small debt of sin against us by others? Jesus shed His blood to redeem all and to win pardon and forgiveness for all; how can we not forgive as He has forgiven?
The Apostle Paul wrote the same things to the believers in Ephesus: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:31-32).
We must remember that it is our old sinful and fallen nature — our nature which was condemned and punished on Christ’s cross — which would have us be unmerciful, impatient, unkind, proud, haughty, quick to condemn and unforgiving. The new nature, created in us by the Holy Spirit when we were baptized into Christ Jesus, seeks to be like Christ: with “bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any.”
Once again, we see our own sinfulness and failures to live as God’s redeemed children and we turn to Him in faith for mercy and forgiveness for the sake of the shed blood of Jesus, who died for the sins of all and rose again in victory. In Jesus, we find mercy and forgiveness. His blood cleanses us from all our sins (1 John 1:7). And, in Jesus, we find help and strength to amend our sinful ways and to live each day for Him as God’s elect and chosen children.
Dear Jesus, forgive me for living according to my old evil and sinful nature. Wash away my sins in Your holy and precious blood and give me a heart like Yours, full of mercy, kindness, patience and forgiveness toward others. Amen.
[Scripture quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]