To celebrate uploading Colossians today I am looking at a small section of chapter 3 where Paul covers living together with other members of the body. He is clearly aware that people can be difficult to live with so he shows us how to do so.
Colossians 3:12-15 New International Version
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 one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
Colossians 3:12-15 New American Standard
12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever * has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.
This list all comes down to “deny yourself”—renouncing all our rights and looking out for the interests of those around us. We need to accept every offence as allowed by God to test us, remembering that every test is a test of our faith not of our tolerance. When a brother or sister hurts us we turn to Jesus, trusting the Holy Spirit to provide the tolerance or mercy and so on, of the indwelling Christ. However badly, however viciously, thoughtlessly or unreasonably someone has hurt us, we pray for them, looking to bless them and enrolling God to bless them too. We cannot dodge the issue by pretending that there is nothing to forgive.
Many of the newer translations assume that love is the bond facilitating the unity of believers but, though it will ultimately have that effect, Paul doesn’t mention unity—here he directs us to spiritual perfection. Love binds together all the virtues of Christ within the individual believer.
Colossians 3:12-15 the Mouse Companion Version
12 As God’s chosen then, holy and loved, clothe yourselves with merciful hearts of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and toleration, 13 bearing with one another, and if one is offended by another, forgiving each other. Just as Christ forgave you, so too should you. 14 Over all these add love, which is the binding agent of perfection, 15 and let the peace of God be your heart’s arbiter, for to this way of life you were called as one body, and grow in gratitude.
When Paul says, “let the peace of God be your heart’s arbiter,” he means that we are to live by the peace of God. I would describe this as ‘paying close attention to the check or the peace in the spirit, and to stop or move based on our awareness of God’s peace regarding a particular action or direction.’ It’s like checking our spirit for God’s ‘green light’ or ‘red light.’ What it doesn’t mean is to allow God’s peace to make you feel relaxed and at peace in every situation, which is what many translations imply and is actually quite dangerous, since giving believers a sense of peace or love is exactly what evil spirits do to deceive us.
Most newer translations put that we were ‘called to peace,’ but Paul actually means we are called to the practice of letting “the peace of God be our heart’s arbiter,” because we are His body on earth and this is the only way it will work. Once we allow the Holy Spirit to direct our steps this way, then we are “sons of God” and thus His body. Simply trying to be filled with God’s peace is not going to achieve that.
And finally, because, when we live this way it will work and we will bear fruit for Christ, this will cause us to become more and more grateful to Christ for calling, purifying and enabling us. >ᴥ<