There’s always one in every family. And sometimes, there’s more than just one.
You know who I’m talking about: the relative that always seems a little bit “off”, or the one who talks too much (about herself, usually), or the one everyone else is afraid will start another family fight. When it’s announced they’re coming to Thanksgiving dinner, your kids look at you and ask “Why do we still invite them over every year?” We all typically answer with the same reply, too – “Because they’re family.”
When Paul began to describe to the Colossian believers all the many ways that their new life in Christ would be lived out, he started by listing some characteristics they were going to have to learn to put on, just like they got dressed every morning.
Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience
Paul didn’t just list these out because they sounded good. Paul’s aim wasn’t that the Colossians would become “nice people”. Rather, he had a specific purpose in mind.
As the good news of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and offer of eternal life spread throughout the known world, the church began to fill with people that were previously isolated and separated from each other. The church was a melting pot of people from all over all of the spectrums. Since the love of Jesus transcends all human boundaries, His church was composed of different races, ethnicities, economic status, political ideologies, religious backgrounds, and even people that just did not like each other.
So now that they were all connected through faith in Jesus, it wasn’t going to work for them to put on a fake smile and just try to play nice. After Paul lists out these important characteristics for the believers to cloth themselves with, he goes on to tell them where these traits will be applied:
...put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another.
We need to put on and practice these traits, because without them we are unable to accept, let alone forgive, those around us. Notice there are no restrictions or qualifiers in Paul’s direction. God expects his children to accept and forgive His other children. Any one, and any complaint.
Notice also that Paul doesn’t say ignore or disregard the complaint itself. Paul is dealing with the person here, the best solution to the complaint will be found as the listed character traits are applied to the situation.
And in case any of them thought they just couldn’t forgive (yet again) or if they refused to accept someone in the family, Paul followed up with this reminder:
Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must forgive.
There is nothing we have done – even repeatedly – that He hasn’t forgiven us for. The Colossians were going to imitate and be like God as they extended the same heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience to each other. Because they’re family.