27 April 2019Colossians 3:1-14
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. (v. 12)
Psalm: Psalm 133
Our text locates itself firmly in the reality of how we should live, in light of our experience of the resurrected Christ. The invitation to seek "things above" invites us to transcend all that distorts our vision, all that demeans, diminishes and disables human flourishing. Here is God’s invitation to be fully human and embrace all that God intended for the human community.
Dying and rising with Christ (v. 3) alludes to the experience of baptism. Rowan Williams offers an insightful reflection on the nature of baptism concluding, "To be baptised is to recover the humanity that God first intended. What did God intend? He intended that human beings should grow into such love for him and confidence in him that they rightly should be called God’s sons and daughters." (Being Christian, SPCK, 2014.)
The language is evocative: not only have we died and risen to new life, our life is also hidden with Christ in God. This is a deeply consoling image, not that we are somehow hidden away, but that God is present with us, in us and around us. As the Psalmist proclaims "You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me" (Psalm 139:5). This truth has sustained many people through the most difficult of experiences.
Living in the power of the risen Christ is an invitation to resist all that contributes to the fragmentation of the human community. Colossians 3 makes explicit that how we relate to one another matters deeply. The risen life is not lived in isolation from one another but in deep commitment to one another. We need to hear these words afresh to us today. In a world of fake news, post-truth and fractured communities, we need to accept the invitation of new life in God, to resist the destructive, life-denying narratives offered to us. When people become fearful of one another we need to tell a different story of God’s love, grace and compassion. We need to do this not just as individuals, but in our churches and communities, to demonstrate the breaking down of barriers and to reveal the Christ who is all and in all.
The metaphor of removing the old shabby clothes and replacing them with beautiful new clothes is compelling. It is an invitation to put on new garments, symbols of a changed life. The practical outworking of this will be seen in our relationships, specifically our handling of conflict. Often in the church we can remain silent or avoid conflict, which often leads to unresolved and persistent difficulties. This text invites us to bear with one another, forgiveness after all can only be truly offered in the light of the knowledge of our actions or inactions. The final garment we are invited to put on is love itself, a love that secures and holds in place the other garments. It is God’s love which acts as the binding force between us.
- What enables you to flourish?
- What does the phrase "our life is hidden with Christ in God" mean to you?
- In what ways do you clothe yourself with the good gifts of God?