12 Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, 13 accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. 14 Above all, put on love — the perfect bond of unity. HCSB
Wearing new clothes that look really great on you builds your confidence. Why? Because good looking, well fitted clothes bring out the best in your outward appearance which effects how you feel about yourself. That’s why God chose the illustrative language of “putting on”. Putting on the nature of Jesus will radically improve how you feel about yourself and how others perceive you. Paul said the same thing a few verses earlier: put on the new self (v10a). All of your outward actions and attitudes come from how you look and feel inside, from who you are wearing. Are you putting on the new ways of the Kingdom, the influence of the Spirit on you, or the old ways of the dark world? Putting on the new you is how you kill the leftovers of your old nature.
Since being rescued from the dark domain, your life is now about how God is transforming you through a continual renewal process (CRP). The rest of v10 explains God’s goal for you: You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator. God is developing in you the very characteristics of his most beloved Son. This is what he means by according to the image of your Creator. So why should you give yourself completely to God’s work of making you into the same kind of person that Jesus was?
You have been chosen by God (elected), set apart for him (made holy) and are genuinely loved by him. He not only loves you, the Father likes you! Each one of those truths is amazing in and of itself. Deep within, you know that you didn’t deserve him to choose you and you certainly don’t deserve his continual love. But you are holy and deeply loved because your Father has forever united you to his Son through your faith. Now that you have been united with Christ Jesus, the rest of your life is about being renewed in knowledge into his very nature, which is described in vs12-13.
Let’s consider each characteristic listed so you will know how you can most effectively participate with God in your continual renewal process.
· heartfelt compassion – an emotional, caring desire to help those whose lives are hurting and broken. You want to show the other person mercy because you feel compassion for them and that is just what they need. Your strength to show this mercy comes from God (1:11-12) and is based solely on the compassion you’ve received from the Lord.
· kindness – this is being ready and willing to do good to someone, even if they don’t deserve it. Being kind like Jesus will be especially powerful when you extend it to someone who isn’t very kind to others. Again, it’s based on the amount of kindness God has shown you and it comes from his strength operating within your new heart (1:11-12). Be kind for his sake, not yours or theirs.
· humility – the opposite is pride. Remember what God says about all forms of pride. He hates them! Jesus came as a servant, so it makes perfect sense that being united with him means you are also a servant. On the their final trip to Jerusalem, the twelve were arguing about who was the greatest. Jesus told them, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35). You can’t do that on your own. Heck, you probably don’t even want to do that most of the time. That is why 3:1-4 is so critical. You must keep your desires on the things above, fixing your mind on Jesus. Continually ask him to fill your thoughts with his understanding (1:9-10). If you are humble, will you be taken advantage of? Sure, just like Jesus was. The more you focus on God’s greatness, the easier it is to be humble and not take yourself so seriously.
· gentleness – this may be a tough characteristic for many men to want to have. It seems soft and weak. Think of it as a no-strings-attached way of encouraging others. It is power in control. Is God harsh or gentle with you? Put on gentleness in how you respond to people because that is part of the delicious fruit of the Spirit of Jesus who is in you, busily renewing you. What did your last harsh response produce anyway?
· patience – the word can also be translated: endurance, tolerance, long-suffering, steadfastness, perseverance, forbearance and constancy. When you give this to others, it will probably cost you something. Be ready for that and rely on God’s strength to endure. The idea is that you are so slow in seeking vengeance that you never do. How patient has God been with you? Accept that we’re all cracked pots and just a little bit crazy. You are too. If you don’t think so, ask your friends.
· accepting – this is similar to being patient in that you know all of the person’s weaknesses and short-comings and you overlook them. You bear with them instead of being a bear to them. Because God accepts you with all of your warts and quirks, you must also accept and bear with others in the same way that God accepts you, and them. Rely on the power of God within you to help you focus on Jesus’ agape love rather than the things that annoy you about that person. However, this does not mean that you shrink back from confronting them about their sins. You are learning to accept them for who they are and how they are.
· forgiving – you will learn to let go of every complaint you have against other people, not clinging to a single one. You can forgive as you seek first to live in the rule and realm of Jesus’ forgiving kingdom. According to his vividly descriptive illustration in Matthew 18:21-35, God forgave you of a $16 billion debt that you owed him in order that you can forgive the person who owes you $20 thousand. The comparative ratio is 800,000 to 1! Think about that each time you struggle forgiving someone who owes you an apology, an email, a text or loyalty. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive (v13a). Remember, forgiveness is not an option for you!
· agapé love – above every other characteristic, love selflessly and freely. Agapé love does not demand love in return. Agapé love will always cost you something: time, energy, emotions, money, respect… it always costs. Agapé love is the primary characteristic of Jesus because he is agapé love. You have his agapé love in you through the indwelling Spirit of Jesus. By the power and grace of God, his agapé love in you will tie all of the other characteristics together in perfect harmony. If you try to be kind or humble or patient without first putting on agapé love, you will not succeed. Clothe yourself in the love of Jesus every day and throughout the day using the Kingdom Come Prayer found in Philippians 1:9-11.
- Make the Philippians 1:9-11 prayer your own: “Father, make my agapé love overflow more and more in full knowledge and sharp discernment so that I will be able to determine what is best in every situation and be blameless before you every day until the day that you return, and so that I will be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through you Lord Jesus, to your glory and for your praise.”