by Pastor Joe Pullen
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
COLOSSIANS 3:12-17, NIV
Crisis has a way of helping us quickly decide what’s most important in life. Last summer, our friends came over to grill and hang out. Everyone was just relaxing outside watching me grill burgers, when all of a sudden, a grease fire started that quickly engulfed the whole grill. It was pretty embarrassing to have our friends and family watching as two-foot tall flames leapt off the burgers I was making for them. I was calm but afraid the fire might leap to our siding and melt the side of our house. My immediate need was for baking soda and fast. Suddenly I didn’t care about looking cool, retirement, or my long to-do list. The crisis of the moment helped me quickly name what was most important.
When Paul wrote the above passage, he was imprisoned. He was isolated, like many of us are right now. God used Paul’s crisis to name what those in the churches he oversaw needed most – to know the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ, no matter their circumstances.
Paul reminds us, that even in crisis, we are God’s chosen people who are dearly loved. God hasn’t forgotten you or ceased to love the world. Quite the opposite, because God says we are holy, which means we are set apart for a divine purpose. God allows His people to be in crisis with everyone else so the world can see how a person that is secure in Christ faces it differently. He wants the world to see how a believer is generous when others hoard, how a believer prays when others panic, how we reach out when others withdraw. This is being the light to the world that Jesus referenced in Matthew 5:14-16. It’s not easy to do, though, when we’re being squeezed by what’s happening around us. So how do we display this light?
Paul tells us to clothe ourselves, to put these things over our human nature: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience — all traits that tend to be most lacking when people are afraid or just trying to survive. He’s telling us to drape these character traits over what we might be tempted to do without God’s prompting. He tells us to exhibit His character with others by bearing with people and quickly forgiving with the same extravagant mercy Christ uses when He forgives us.
As we face uncertainty, concern for loved ones, and even fear, the instruction from God through Paul is to let the peace of Christ rule in your heart. Will you allow the peace of Christ to rule your heart? We do that by choosing to filter what we see and hear through the lens of Christ’s supremacy and sufficiency. Paul tells us to do this by being thankful. In practice, that looks like recognizing that what’s happening in the world is under the control of a merciful and loving God who has a divine purpose behind what He allows to occur.
I am thankful that no matter what happens to my body, my soul is destined for an eternity in the presence of Jesus, whom I love. I’m thankful that so many of you in our church are donating food, babysitting kids of healthcare workers, dropping off meals, checking on senior citizens, and much more. We can be thankful that spiritual conversations are happening with extended family members, co-workers, and friends. We can be thankful that even when we can’t gather as a church in the building, the Coronavirus pandemic has launched all of us to the frontlines to be the church.
During this time, it’s so tempting to allow fear, anxiety and escapism to rule in our hearts, instead of the peace Jesus offers. Instead, try taking time to intentionally be thankful. Be detailed and thorough. If we make intentional thankfulness a daily practice, we will see time and again that Christ is faithful, and His faithfulness gives us peace.