Clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony – Colossians 3:12-17
Today – and for the past few days – I’ve been mulling over a truth I’ve been wrestling with for much of my life. I’m not sure I like my conclusions at this point, but sometimes it helps me to “think out loud” and explore ideas in this on-line forum. So – with your kind indulgence – here goes:
Essentially, I’m struggling with the idea of innate human goodness. You see, I’ve always believed that, at the core of everything – people are essentially good. I know, there’s the doctrine of “original sin,” and the idea of “total depravity.” I get that, but those concepts are more technical issues, and bound up with the companion idea that Christ’s sacrifice on The Cross is absolutely necessary when it comes to salvation.
The “Nice-Mean” Continuum:
What I’m thinking about is more to do with what I’ll call, “the nice-mean continuum” – more along the lines of the Will Rogers declaration that, “I never met a man I didn’t like!”
“Everyone,” I have long reasoned, “is basically good; there’s no-one I wouldn’t like if only I sat down with them for coffee; all we have to do is get to know people and move forward from there.”
Along with that – something I’ve lived and practiced for six decades – is the companion idea that, “Being a Christian makes someone a good/nice/pleasant/generous-hearted person.”
So we have two ideas here:
- The essential goodness of humanity
- Christians are by definition nice people
No, seriously, don’t laugh – that’s what I’ve always thought. Even if I haven’t articulated it clearly, I have always operated on the assumption – right or wrong – that the fruit of the Spirit came, naturally, as part of the package: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the self with its passions and its desires. If we live by the Spirit, let’s follow the Spirit. Let’s not become arrogant, make each other angry, or be jealous of each other” (Galatians 5:22-25).
Flying the Christian Flag:
But you know what? I’m wrong! Simply flying the Christian flag does not make rude people civil, mean people nice, angry folk peaceable, crude folk polite, jealous people generous, unhappy folk joyful, selfish people unselfish, or arrogant folk humble.
I’ve seen too much evidence to the contrary, and – somewhere over the past year – it’s reached the tipping point. I have to admit that adherence to the Christian religion isn’t the magic pill it’s often advertised to be, and wearing the “Christian” label – even 100% of our nation – would do little to change the way human beings interact from day to day….
But there is Good News!
But (and this is why I finished that paragraph with the ellipsis…) making the decision to be a disciple of Jesus, inviting the Holy Spirit to radically transform us, and waking up each and every day owning a disciplined intention to know Jesus makes every difference, and God will help us if only we are humble and willing.
What we must do – each and every morning like it’s the first time – is to get dressed for the day: “Clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:12-17).
- Clothed with mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience
- Making allowances for others’ faults
- Forgiving anyone who offends
- Dressing ourselves with love…
That’s how it works. God provides us with the resources, we have to – with humility – work hard and, every new day, get dressed in these clothes of grace – DEREK