"Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." Colossians 3:12
I open my closet stuffed with far too many clothes for one person and ask myself, "What should I wear today?" In the background is the noise from the tv, the morning news clamoring details about a tidal wave that killed nearly 2,000 people over 8,000 miles away from my blessed life. What am I supposed to do? I can't pack up my family and go there...well, I guess I could if God told me to. But He's not ...is He? I'm brave enough to ask the question, but I'm pretty sure the answer is 'no'...this time the answer is no. So, what then? Send some money? I feel like that would be like trying to fight a fire with the moisture from a kiss...pointless.
I continue staring at my closet.
I stare at all I have and hear of all they lost. The heart becomes numb to the needs when the needs seem so endless and overwhelming. When the hurting seems a million miles away, it's hard to feel obligated to do anything at all. So, I go on about my day. I wake five kids up and make breakfast and pack lunches and chauffeur to and from and fold the endless mounds of laundry. Standing there in front of my closet, I have this internal conversation between the Jesus girl who knows I can do more and the world girl who says that I'm only responsible for the lives inside of my four walls. It's a daily battle I have that no one wins in the end. All that's left are a few sad thoughts for some people in need and a heart heavy with guilt knowing I have to do something more, but what?
Standing there in front of my closet, it hits me that the answer lies in the question..."What should I wear?"
In Colossians 3 we are called to "take off" our old selves, out old self with its passions and desires, its wants and its needs, its pride and self-centeredness. And we are to "put on" our new selves. Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. This list is not exhaustive, but it is representative of those virtues that speak of your relationship to others.
"Put on" first occurs in Colossians in chapter 3 verse 10 and then again in verse 14. In the Greek it is the verb "enduo" which means "to sink into (clothing), to put on, to clothe one's self." This is important because you are commanded to do this, to put on, to clothe yourself with the new self.
So, standing there in front of my closet wondering what I could possibly do to help those typhoon-hit people "a million miles away," I realize that putting on the characteristics of Christ is my only way of helping. I may not be able to travel to the Philippines and help those people specifically, but I can help those people all around me who are drowning in their own hardships of life.
Everywhere you turn you can spot those who are being smacked by waves of one kind or another...health problems, financial troubles, family issues. So what can I do to help any of them? I can clothe myself in these Christ-like characteristics Paul speaks of in Colossians 3:12-17. If I view others with compassion and kindness, then I will be more aware of their needs and be quick to try and help. If I am more gentle, humble, and patient, then I will never view someone else's needs or hurts as trivial or unworthy of my attention.
We live in a society that believes in everyone getting their own way whatever the cost, so the ones who succeed are the ones who are least gentle and least humble. Unfortunately, that spills over into church life. We are surrounded by needs, even in our own church. But we are so self-absorbed that we fail to recognize them or we don't care even if we see them. We say we care, we offer our thoughts and prayers, but we don't do anything sacrificial to really meet their need. Even worse, a lot of times we decide that the way someone chooses to live or the choices they have made in their situation somehow gives us the right to judge whether or not we help them. That makes us just as bad as the church in Colosse that Paul was writing to here. The problem with the Colossians was that, although they called themselves Christians, they weren’t really living like it. Some people had been trying to teach them the wrong things about Jesus and many of them had been living in such a way that there was no real difference between them and anyone else. Sound familiar? What if we strived everyday to take off our old wardrobe of selfishness and judgement and put on our new wardrobe of selflessness and tolerance. What if we didn't ask why someone needed something, but just asked, "What do you need?" No strings attached. Isn't that what love really is?
Paul begins Colossians chapter 3 with these words (The Message): “So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it.” You see, it’s not enough just to know the stuff. The important thing is to actually do something about it, allowing it to make a difference in our lives. So, what am I going to wear? Maybe instead of cleaning out my closet, I should take a look at my heart and see what I need to get rid of, so I'm not tempted to wear those out of season characteristics anymore.