Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12, NIV
Clothes have been striking since Adam and Eve first sewed fig leaves together (Genesis 3:7) to hide their nakedness, after which God graciously provided clothes of animal skins. Nowadays, there’s an interesting outfit for each occasion – unless you’re like our little Audie, who was once convinced that for pre-school she needed fourteen dresses, simultaneously, to make her skirts twirl efficiently!
Clothes usually suit a person’s role or status – John the Baptist’s tunic of camel’s hair with a leather belt was well-suited to a prophet in the wilderness – whereas that wouldn’t have suited a king.
Television viewers were given another perspective on dress in the recent coronation of King Charles III as the solemn ceremony at Westminster Abbey showed the ancient ritual with all the pomp of such an important occasion. In this setting, the monarch took vows to serve his country with the same intent as the Lord Jesus Christ, who had come “to serve, not be served” as he pledged to follow Jesus' example. At a key moment, the prince replaced his royal robes with a simple white linen robe, symbolically depicting his humility as a mortal before God, before he was anointed with oil, and after which he was re-clothed and crowned king.
When Paul tells the Colossians to clothe themselves he isn’t speaking about their outward appearance, although his words might affect that too. He’s encouraging them to think about how Christ’s love has transformed who they were, and now lives in them, and not to hold onto their old destructive patterns of behaviour through which they’d been heading towards eternal separation from God. Heaven was now their destination, to live with God forever, where these contaminated things had no place – they needed to transform their mindset.
He reminds them that Jesus has cleansed and renewed them, and to keep pure, because, “When Christ who is your life appears then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:4) Jesus said, “Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:17)
Paul calls out their sins, with the destructive attitudes and behaviour they cause, which need to be eradicated: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed – a form of idolatry – which destroy them; also the sins that come from their lips – anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language, and lying. He urges them rather to “clothe themselves” with qualities rooted in love – compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness. “Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:23)
Paul is speaking to us too. We can only be in step with God when we take him seriously, look honestly at ourselves, and fulfil the truth and wisdom of his Word.
Do we need a change of clothes?