Epistle to the Colossians 3: 12-14 (NIV)
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
The Apostle Paul’s allusion in verse 12 to clothing follows earlier reference to taking off the old self with its practices and putting on the new self (verses 9-10). The taking off of our old selves is a natural consequence of our having been raised with Christ (verse 1), having died and having our lives hidden with Christ in God (verse 3).
Paul has already challenged those hearing this letter to put to death whatever belongs to the earthly nature (verse 5). The virtues with which he has urged his hearers to clothe themselves (verse 12), “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience”, are appropriate for all of us being renewed in the image of our Creator. These virtues bear some similarity to the gifts of the Spirit about which Paul wrote to the Church in Galatia: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (5: 22-23). It is no surprise then that Paul has urged that over all these virtues God’s chosen people are to put on love, the first-listed of the fruits of the Spirit, as if this is the outer garment holding all others in place.
Within the Christian community, bearing with each other and forgiving one another rate special mention in this letter. The need for forgiveness is a theme running through New Testament Scripture. Our Lord himself, in his model prayer to his disciples, taught forgiveness and then deliberately expanded on this element of the prayer: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6: 14-15).
Within and beyond our own individual Christian communities we who have been raised with Christ do well to attend to all these imperatives and particularly to the imperative that we forgive any grievances we may be carrying.
Forgive as the Lord forgave you.