Paul wants us to live out the implications of our baptism. We have been raised with Christ at our baptism, and we have died and had our life hidden with Christ in God (see Colossians 3:1-3 compare to Romans 6:1-4). We now have a new identity as chosen, holy, and beloved (3:12). The implication of our baptism is that we should be putting on virtues (Colossians 3:12-14). Paul gives a list.
- Compassion (heart of mercy ESV) is the ability to feel for another. To be touched by someone’s circumstances.
- Kindness is the quality of being helpful or beneficial to one another.
- Humility is the opposite of being arrogant or proud. It takes humility to admit mistakes and weaknesses. It takes humility to listen to God’s word and see the corrections that we should make. The humble person is willing to serve and willing to reach out to all kinds of people.
- Gentleness is the quality of not being overly impressed by a sense of one’s own self-importance. It expresses itself as courtesy and considerateness. Its opposite is harshness.
- Patience is remaining tranquil while awaiting an outcome or being able to bear up under provocation. It is a reminder that Christian can have bad times, which need endurance. It is also a reminder that just because we are Christians doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t occasionally provoke one another. God is still shaving off our rough edges.
- Bearing with one another (I like to say it as putting up with one another). We are not in heaven yet. The church on earth is not perfect. Renewal though real does not make people perfect in this life. We must have patience with one another as we work through problems.
- Forgiving each other. We will all make mistakes. We will sin. We may at times even wound one another. But we are called to forgive one another, because God forgives us.
The crowning virtue in this passage (Colossians 3:12-14) is love. Love is the quality that puts another first and does the best for another. Literally the passage reads, “love, which is the bond of perfection.” The NIV relates it to the virtues of this passage: “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” In this reading, love is the crowning virtue that holds all of these other virtues together. Love sums up and encompasses every other virtue. Love binds these virtues together. To treat with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness is to love. After all, “love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10, ESV).
But the ambiguity of what Paul says could also apply love as the bond that holds people together too. I suspect that both thoughts are true. Love sums up the other virtues, and love is the glue that holds people together in unity. Love is truly the perfect bond.