And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity (Colossians 3:14 NIV).
Do you want to know a telltale sign you’re having a bad day? One such sign is when find yourself stuck outside in the cold without a coat.
Why, you ask, would someone be in that situation?
Not that I know anyone who’s gone through that recently (ahem), but hypothetically that might happen if you went to take the trash to the curb and got locked out of your house. Never would one feel more gratitude for a winter coat—and more sympathy for those who aren’t fortunate enough to have one.
As I think through what the Apostle Paul is trying to say in Colossians 3, this unfortunate circumstance (again, not that it happened to me … in case you were wondering) is the scenario that comes to mind.
To the casual observer driving by, you might appear to be wearing just the right outfit. It’s classy; all the accessories are there—you’re the height of fashion.
You, however, know what’s going on. As good as you look on the outside, you won’t last that long if you don’t get the coat that you need.
When Paul mentions the necessity of putting on love over a litany of other great attributes featured in Colossians 3, he’s not just saying that it’s the finishing touch to a great outfit.
He’s suggesting that you might as well be stark naked without it. If you don’t have love, you’ve pulled a thread that won’t stop until you’re left exposed.
The truth is, when you try to have compassion without love, it only serves your ego. Kindness without love is just an act. Humility without love leads to resentment. Gentleness without love causes anger that eventually boils over, and being patient without love is apathy.
If this applies to you, find the warmth of Christ and let it cover you. You may be faking your way through some things right now, just going through the motions, but sooner or later you’ll find yourself out in the cold.
How can I do that, you ask? My problem, you think, is that I’m dealing with people that don’t deserve that type of emotional investment from me.
Ironically, Christ extended a coat of forgiveness to you, even though he could say the same thing. When you weren’t at your best, he still provided all you needed to stay free from the dangerous environment in which you found yourself.
A big part of putting on the love coat, which makes everything else work, is learning how to forgive others in the same way Christ forgave your sins. He did that not because he felt sorry for you or wanted to hold it against you. He did it so he could have fellowship with you.
You have to want to save relationships more than getting what you think someone owes you. True love, undergirded by forgiveness, makes it possible for any relationship to last. If you’re going to succeed in any relationship, God is asking you to become an expert in forgiving other people. When people experience true love and forgiveness from us, it is the most significant fruit of all.
Let’s face it. Trying to “be good” or do the right thing, without love in our hearts, only leaves us feeling miserable. But when we put on the chief attribute of Christ, we will be safe from any element we may encounter.