12. Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;
13. bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.
14. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.
So today, I revisited a church I formerly attended, and the Pastor was preaching on gentleness, as the Fruit of the Spirit. I was quite struck by the message. Lately I’ve been revolving many thoughts and attitudes in my mind which have been the opposite of gentle, but I have also been crying out to God to give me a heart that pursues Him, and that yearns after Christlike character. So the message was just what I needed and wanted to hear!
v12 God has called us to be His own, He has called us to be holy, we are dearly loved or beloved to Him. True Christlike character is a mark of holiness, and a proof that our hearts are filled with God’s love. This is expressed in being merciful, being kind, being humble, being meek and being longsuffering, or patient with others. In another part of the Bible this is described as the Fruit of the Spirit, so we can understand that it comes about as a result of the Spirit of God at work in our hearts.
However, here, we are also told to “put on” these attitudes. The Pastor today made the point that while yes it is the work of the Spirit, we also have to cultivate these attributes through spending time with God, reading our Bibles, prayer so God could change our hearts etc. We also have to cultivate these attitudes as mindsets – learn to think of other people in terms of mercy, humility, kindness etc. So for instance, where in our minds we are tempted to think in an unkind way about someone, learn to quickly weed out that thought and replace it with kind thoughts instead.
v13 “Bearing with one another and forgiving one another”. Forgiveness is right at the heart of the Christian life; after all, God forgave us of all our sins through Jesus Christ. However, it is something that I have always personally struggled with. Forgiveness is about releasing ourselves from malice held towards someone for what they have done to us. I have always struggled with re-establishing a friendship or thinkingly kindly towards someone who has behaved unjustly towards me. This is because I want to protect myself from their doing the same thing again. However, I know that God is helping me with this. One of the ways that I am asking Him to help me is to express my fears not in my behaviour towards these people, but rather in my prayers to Him. So this means that I am coming before God and being TOTALLY honest about I feel about Person X. I am asking Him to help me love this person. I am also asking Him to protect me from the same thing happening again.
Being confident that He will answer, I can free myself to be kind towards this person again, (within wise boundaries however, depending on whatever they might have done – let’s not be stupid here!)
v14. “Put on love, which is the bond of perfection” – or, the perfect bond. Once again this is something we put on, or cultivate. It is from a loving attitude that we can demonstrate all these other attributes as necessary, and give them freely, and deeply, not mechanically! The deeper we grow in love, the more fluent we will grow at demonstrating the correct attribute at the correct time, or the correct balance of attitudes.
It’s Bible passages like this that make me so proud of my faith and of my God. This is such indisputable truth. I can’t imagine any other more wholesome way to conduct life or to conduct relationships. Except that Christians (myself shamefully included) never do this – but that would be another story! (OK, we do sometimes, but it always seems to be so rare!)