Bible Study: All Dressed Up – Now What?
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12)
When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians about being clothed he was talking about much more than garments. In this brief study we will consider the characteristics of these “garments” and what we do once we are dressed in them.
Literally, the Greek says we are to be clothed in our inner parts. Jesus said “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him” (Matthew 12:35). The Apostle is appealing to us to do more than “go through the motions.” He wants these garments to reflect our internal convictions and attitudes.
Compassion is the operative emotion of being concerned for others. One commentary calls it “a motivating emotion.” We might look at this as a sympathetic heart. It is that internal feeling that tugs at your heartstrings when you see the plight of others. It is that compelling desire you feel that something must be done and you realize it likely is you who should be doing it.
This is the same word that is sometimes translated as mercy or benevolence. This is compassion (that inward motivating emotion of concern) revealed in a charitable and loving nature towards others. Kindness is that unique characteristic that is immediately evident when you begin to help someone. It is recognized by its selfless nature.
Even the arrogant can be kind. They show their charity from a distance without really getting involved. But this “garment” pulls you into a helping situation. When the Apostle wrote the Philippians he used the same word. Notice the definition that followed: “In humility, consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3,4). A “garment” of humility not only levels the playing field, but it actually has you taking ownership of the welfare of another. “Your concerns are my concerns” might well serve as a slogan for this type of “garment.”
Someone once said, “Humility is a funny thing – once you think you have it, you’ve lost it.” When used with the other garments it adds that touch of flair that makes everything fit without being gaudy. It is the accent that completes the package without being showy.
Words most closely associated with this are “soothing,” “mild” and “meek” in contrast to harsh, loud and rough. This is not just a locker-room friendship between rough and tough football players. Rather, this is a spirit of calmness and care, as if handling the most delicate of fine china. When the Apostle Peter called on us to witness to our faith in Christ he used this word to describe the way we deliver our message: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
This is not only a willingness to wait but a willingness to persevere when the going gets tough. The Apostle Paul told the Ephesians: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). The word “bearing” carries with it the idea of enduring, as in a hardship. We often think selfishly about the meaning of patience. We wonder if we can wait long enough until we have reached our desired goal. That is not what is being spoken of here.
This is not a “garment” for self-benefit but for the benefit of others. This is the outer cloak that you lend to another to fight the chill, even when it makes you shiver a little. Your prayer for patience is not just that you can get through it but that you, for them, might get through it all. There is an outward focus to this characteristic.
You would never dress up for the dance, pay the band and then let other people dance. This “charity by proxy” is sometimes necessary for the really big challenges in life but that is secondary to God’s request of us.
We become accustomed to letting these garments weather from neglect in the closet as we let others do the work. God, however, calls on each of us to act individually. We are to do good to all people, to fellow Christians and to our immediate family (Galatians 6:10; 1 Timothy 5:8). This is not a delegated responsibility. This is an outfit God wants each of us to wear – and wear it well.
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