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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Today’s Reading | Colossians 3:12–17               

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with 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 the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs 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. (NRSV)

I have done eight weddings in my time working at Fourth Church, and most—if not all—have included this passage. For most folks, it’s an alternative to the ubiquitous passage from 1 Corinthians 13. Like that passage, this one describes a Christian way of living in relationship: bearing with one another, forgiving, being patient, having compassion. Certainly these are great qualities to emphasize when two people are choosing to build a life together, however, I always remind couples of two things when I preach on this passage. First, this kind of perfect love can only be fully embodied by God. It is an ideal love that we strive for, though we often fall short. I also remind couples that this passage isn’t inherently about how to live as a couple but rather about how to live in community.

Read all at once, this list of qualities for good Christian living can feel pretty daunting. Despite my best efforts, I know that I am not always compassionate or forgiving or patient. Sometimes this description feels so impossible I’m inclined to give up entirely. But the purpose of this passage is to emphasize that in Christ we are made into one community even as we are different. These qualities the passage describes aren’t something we can achieve individually, but rather qualities we grow into together when we honor our common place in the community of God.

There is a concept in theology called “mutual indebtedness” that suggests that I can only be who God calls me to be by allowing you to be who God calls you to be and vice versa. When we encounter each other in this way, our love will naturally exhibit more patience, compassion, forgiveness, wisdom, and Godliness.

God of grace, you have given us the gift of one another and the ability to embody your love. Help us to honor and love one another, even if only imperfectly, that we might always grow in our understanding of your love for us and this whole world. Amen.

Written by Layton Williams, Pastoral Resident

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