Foundational principle: Show others how Christ has treated you.
How should you treat other people?
These words and other words that communicate their meanings:
Tenderness, mercy, affection, sympathy, pity, sensitivity, sweetness, helpfulness, kindness, compassion, unselfishness, humility, submission, friendliness, meekness, patience, endurance, forgiveness, love. All of those ideas are contained in these words.
I think we understand that general picture. And that describes how we should treat other people. From our spouse and children to our friends to the guys at work to the person in the grocery store to the little league game.
3:12 says “put on” these things. Like clothes. Clothe yourself with these things.
These words do not only apply when everything is smooth and easy. The last word in v.12, “patience,” you may be used to hearing translated as “longsuffering.” This is a unique word that highlights your calmness and patience when provoked by other people. It’s a word uniquely suited for your relationships with annoying or frustrating people. You must be longsuffering or patient, calm in the face of their provoking.
v.13 “bearing with one another” specifically refers to times when there are problems and difficulties in our relationships. It suggests that we need self-restraint and patience and tolerance for the weaknesses and faults of others.
v.13 “forgiving one another, whoever has a complaint against anyone.” See again that these verses do not hide from the reality that relationships are challenging. Paul recognized that we often have complaints against others. Things we wish they would change, or would not have done. We must forgive. That doesn’t mean that you go to that person and tell them “I forgive you” if they have not sought your forgiveness. But we must always make a private decision not to demand repayment; not to treat them differently; not to hold the offense against them. We choose to forgive. Matt. 18:21-22 “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Us to seven times?” Jesus said “Up to seventy times seven” – try 490! In other words, you never stop. You just keep forgiving – you don’t demand that they get paid back for whatever they did.
So this is the picture of how we should treat others. Patience; sweetness; unselfishness; compassion; helpfulness. Even, and especially, when things aren’t smooth. When people are difficult to get along with. Verse 14 is interesting: beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity, the belt of completeness. You are putting on these things, like clothes, and love is the belt that holds it all together. This is a less helpful picture today, since the wastebands have been completely removed from women’s pants and skirts, and men’s pants and shorts are designed to be worn far below the waist. But back in the old days when people actually wore belts, it was an important piece of clothing because without it everything came unraveled! Love holds it all together.
Why should we treat people like this?
1. Because you are chosen and loved by God.
The New Testament says many times that we are “chosen of God” for salvation. This is sometimes called predestination; sometimes foreknowledge; sometimes election; sometimes calling; sometimes “chosen,” like here. The point is the same throughout – before you chose God, He chose you. We are supposed to look on this choosing as a great privilege, and bow in humility that God would choose me. That humility forms the foundation that allows us to have the other attitudes here in Col. 3.
· To some this doctrine is misunderstood; for some it is frightening or frustrating; for some it just gets ignored. I hope you will have the courage to believe what Scripture says. Do not be fooled by men such as Dave Hunt. In his books What Love is This? He says “Never is this word (elect, etc.) used to indicate that there is a select group who alone have been predestinated to be saved…. Nowhere in Scripture is election unto salvation but always to blessing and service." That’s a false claim! See II Tim. 2:10, Rom. 8:33, Matt. 24:24, etc.
· Don’t be fooled by someone (many people – many pastors) who try to say that God chose you because He looked forward in history and saw that you would trust Him, and then he chose you because of that. That is completely inadequate to explain what the Bible says. I would be glad to talk to you about that more if you would like.
· The Bible teaching is clear and we need to believe it. God chose us before we chose Him. H.A. Ironside illustrated this well when he said that from this side of the entrance to heaven or salvation you see “whosoever will may come” written over the gates. And it is true. It is the decree of the perfect Word of God. Nothing prevents the salvation of the greatest sinner except his willful choice to refuse salvation in Christ. And when you cross through that gate and look back, on the back of the gate is written “chosen in him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). God chose you before you ever chose him. Both of those things are truth. You must believe them both. And they do reconcile with one another. Our brains, limited by our humanity, cannot handle it. Cannot completely reconcile them. But someday we will see – someday we will get it.
· Rejoice that you are chosen. Then Col. 3:12 says “holy and beloved.” This is present, it is happening right now, you “are being loved.” I Thes. 1:4 “Knowing brethren who are loved by God, His choice of you” I Thes. 2:13 “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren who are loved by the Lord, because God has chosen you.” The doctrine of God’s choosing should be a reminder to us of how greatly we are loved by God. You were not chosen because you earned it. Rejoice that you are loved by Him.
· “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, etc.”
2. Because Christ treats you this way
· See v. 13 “just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” We can apply this to all of the other things too. “Just as the Lord is compassionate toward you, so also should you.” “Just as the Lord is patient with you, so also should you.” “Just as the Lord is gentle with you, so also should you.” You treat other people this way because Christ treats you this way! You deserve nothing but hell; you are disobedient and rebellious and selfish! And God Himself comes as a man to love and serve and give himself for you. And he sacrifices and forgives and loves. And you don’t deserve any of it! And so, you respond to Christ’s great love by loving others. You respond to Christ’s patience by being patient with others. You respond to Christ’s gentleness by being gentle with others.
3. Because the peace of Christ has removed your need for rights
Verse 15 “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” The word “rule” means to act as umpire or judge. Preside is probably a good English word for it. Someone who presides watches what goes on and makes sure that things are done as they should be. Let the peace from Christ preside over your heart as you deal with other people.
What is the peace from Christ? I think this refers to the peace that comes when we realize that we are terrible sinners who have been wonderfully forgiven in Christ. And so we don’t deserve anything from anyone. We already have far more than we could ever deserve. So we can relax, because I don’t have to prove that I am something special. I don’t have to make sure that you have a good opinion of me. I don’t have to look smart or spiritual. Because I’m not. I’m just a sinner saved by grace. In other words, I don’t have any rights any more. The peace of Christ has removed my need for rights. See, it is when we have rights that our relationships are a mess. I have a right to peace and quiet; I have a right to comfort; I have a right to respect. If you live that way your relationships will be a mess! And you will be a mess!
READ Tozer handout. That peace should preside over your relationships with other people. The peace of Christ has removed your need for rights.
4. Because you are thankful for how God in Christ has treated you
· Verse 15 the end of the verse sums up the “why?” when it says “and be thankful.” That’s what it all comes down to. If you are just thankful for all that God has done for you in Christ, you will treat people correctly. You will be gracious and gentle and loving and patient. Because you have offended God infinitely more than any person has ever offended you, and God has done infinitely more for you than you could ever do for someone else. So you can love and forgive and care and serve. Because you are thankful.
Matt. 18:23-35 His master was rightfully furious, because rather than thankfulness overflowing into forgiveness and grace toward others, he was harsh and demanding with others. And we do the same thing. We expect God to forgive every sin and rebellion without any consequences. But then we demand repayment and consequences from anyone who dares to wrong us.
TRANSITION: Those two points really summarize what is here in Colossians 3:12-15. READ the verses again. I want to take one step further and go a little bit beyond what is here in Colossians.
What is the result?
If you will treat people the right way for the right reasons, some exciting things happen:
1. You present Christ to others through your actions.
II Cor. 2:14 “God manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Christ in every place.” God shows off what Christ is like through us! When you treat someone gently, you are showing them Christ’s gentleness. When you are patient, you are showing Christ’s patience. When you are kind, you are showing Christ’s kindness. Now when you have opportunities you should combing this with your verbal testimony, otherwise some people will just know you are different, they won’t know why. You have to tell them that you seek to love other people because Christ has loved you so much. But you live it – you show people Christ by treating them like Christ treats you.
2. You exalt Christ because you are pursuing Christ-likeness.
· When you pursue Christlikeness, it exalts Jesus. It says “you are most important – we are all pursuing being like you!” Rom. 8:29 “Those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn (first in importance) among many brethren.” When you pursue Christ-likeness you exalt Christ as most important.
3. You glorify God by showing off what Christ is like.
II Cor. 4:6 “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” In the face of Christ, people see the glory of God. So when you live like Christ, people are seeing God’s glory. Remember our mission statement: “Faithful followers of Christ will glorify God by knowing His unique greatness, valuing this above all else, and living to make His unique greatness known to others.” When people see Christ in you, you are making God’s unique greatness known to others.
Did you know that such important stuff was going on in your daily relationships? It is! You have the opportunity to show off Christ, exalt Christ, and glorify God by how you treat people. Annoying people! Frustrating people! People that demand patience.
It is sobering to realize that as a Christian you are telling people about Christ by how you treat them. It is happening. The question is, are you telling them the truth. The Father who is harsh with his children is telling them that God is a harsh God. If you are impatient with other people you are telling them that God is an impatient God. You are communicating about God by how you live – your either communicating truth or a lies. It all comes down to this: relationships give you the opportunity to show others how Christ has treated you. Tell the truth! Live like Christ! You have his power within you to do this. If you will seek God’s help and strength, He will give you divine ability to live this way.