After establishing how God looks at His children, Paul has specific directions for how the Colossian believers are to conduct themselves:
Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience
The Greek word for put on carries the idea of putting on clothes or getting dressed. Putting on these qualities is something Paul is instructing the believers to do. God isn’t going to do this for them. God isn’t going to make them instantly and perfectly compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, or patient. These are skills the Colossians are going learn, practice, and develop.
As our first son became old enough to toddle around, we began to teach him how to dress himself. He didn’t put his shirt on right the first time he tried, either. Sometimes his arm would go through the head-hole, which would lead to panic and tears as he tried to push his head through an arm-hole. We would then help him back out and calm down. Before trying again, we reminded him that if he felt stuck, all he needed to do was to ask one of us for help.
Different articles of clothing required the development of different hand-coordination skills. While a t-shirt was more about gross motor skills, putting on socks required that different sections of the body had to work together. Each article of clothing presented a new challenge, but after a short amount of time, he figured it out and could dress himself.
When we had our second child, the same getting-dressed skills needed to be taught to him, too. I’m certain that we didn’t teach him in the exact same way as we taught his brother. If he learned to put his socks on sooner than his brother did, that was great. If it took him longer to learn how to shimmy his legs into pants, then that was ok, too. These skills would develop the more he practiced it. It also didn’t matter that it was easier for his brother to put his head in the shirt first, or that he preferred to put his arms in first. The goal was the same – they both needed to put on their shirt.
I think the spiritual parallel is pretty obvious. Paul lists out several characteristics that God wants believers to put on, but notice Paul doesn’t say exactly how the Colossians are to do it. Maybe someone will learn how to put on heartfelt compassion while at work, and another believer will learn how to put on heartfelt compassion as they stop their busy lives for a moment to help a total stranger.
Perhaps putting on kindness comes naturally to you, but you struggle with patience. When we see other believers being patient with their spouse, their children, or their circumstances…it’s easy to get down on ourselves. We start feeling frustrated and stuck. However, we shouldn’t be upset that someone else is better at putting on their socks than we are at this moment. It’s in those moments we just need to ask our Daddy for help.
With time and practice, we’ll learn how to put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Not only will we be dressed in them, but we will learn how they coordinate into something attractive and beautiful – they will be qualities that others see, qualities that point them toward our Savior.