“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
We are called to be a thankful church, but this doesn’t happen automatically. Certain things have first got to be true of us. Certain conditions must be met in order for gratitude to arise in our hearts. The Holy Spirit, through Paul, is teaching us in this passage that at least three areas of our corporate life as a church should be set right in order for sincere gratitude and true thankfulness to arise. These areas are: 1) our relationships, 2) our worship, and 3) our conduct. So, in order for gratitude to arise in our church –
1. THE LOVE OF CHRIST SHOULD CONTROL OUR RELATIONSHIPS
We are God’s children – God’s chosen, holy and beloved ones. We should reflect the loving character of our Father and love one another as befits members of one family. We should therefore put on compassion (mercy and pity towards those who are weak, are suffering, are miserable), kindness (readiness to do good even when it is undeserved), humility (thinking of others as better than ourselves and being willing and ready to serve them) meekness (gentleness; the willingness to suffer injury rather than inflict), and patience (longsuffering); bearing (enduring!) one another, forgiving one another (even as the Lord forgave us). These are all characteristics of our loving Lord in his relation to us. And all these are also aspects, manifestations or characteristics of love. “Love is patient and kind,” (see I Cor. 13:4ff.). They are also the fruit (not fruits) of the Holy Spirit, love being the first mentioned in that list, as if to say that the rest follow if there is love.
The greatest is love; therefore, above all, we must put on love. It is love that unites us and moves us towards spiritual maturity. The implication is where love is lacking the church cannot move on to perfection or maturity.
But if love is present it follows that peace must be too. The peace of Christ should serve as the standard by which we measure our actions, especially towards one another. In our dealings with our brethren we must ask ourselves, Is this in line with the peace of Christ which should prevail among us? The peace of Christ should rule (i.e., serve as an umpire) in our hearts. An umpire settles disputes. If a dispute, if disharmony, is about to break out in our midst, we must let the peace of Christ settle the matter. This is what is expected of us. This is what we are called to, for the fact is we are already one body in God’s mind and plan. Our relationships should therefore reflect and correspond to this spiritual reality.
And be thankful. For what? The answer, based on the context, is Be thankful that you are one body. So here then is the connection. Gratitude arises when the body is united as a result of the love of Christ controlling and constraining us.
(To be continued)