As we come to look at this passage, thank God we are looking at it in the light of the Gospel of Christ! Reading these verses it is so clear how often we fall short of each one. As sinners depending on our own strength we could never live up to this standard. Yet as Christians, God’s children, His chosen ones, we are not depending on our own strength; rather we are depending on the completed work of Christ on the cross. What wonderful news!
When we focus on ourselves, verses like these can be overwhelming, daunting, and honestly, at times, discouraging. We see our own sinfulness, our weakness, our inability to do what we know we should do, and we struggle with the standards that God has called us to meet. However when we feel like this, we are in good company! The apostle Paul who wrote this letter to the Colossians, said of himself in Romans 7:15 “I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate.” (NLT) The truth is that no one can ever meet this perfect standard that God calls us too, and we don’t have to because of the Gospel.
Jesus came and He lived the perfect life that we as sinners could never live. He showed more tender-hearted mercy (v.12) than we can even imagine to all of the sick, lonely, outcast, sinful people that He came into contact with during His human life. Then He went to the cross showing us that His mercy knows no limits! Because of what He accomplished, we never need to face the punishment we deserve as He has already taken that punishment on Himself. He was truly kind, humble, gentle, and patient (v.12) as He walked this earth surrounded by sinful people who couldn’t see or understand who He really was or what He was trying to tell them, and yet he continued to pursue them, to pursue us.
In verse 13 Paul reminds us to “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” This is why He came that first Easter: to offer Himself as the ultimate living sacrifice so that we would know true and lasting forgiveness, and in return extend that to those around us. In verse 14 he calls us to “clothe yourselves with love”; praise God that He IS love! It is Him who provides us with this ability to love others as Christ has loved us when He gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit to live in us and transform us from the inside. None of this is achieved by us (cf. Philippians 2:12+13). Anything good in us is as a result of Christ dwelling in us, and so it is to Him that we need to give our thanks and praise (v.16).
God Himself is Jehovah Shalom ‘The Lord Our Peace’. This peace is not a peace based on our circumstances or possessions. It is not a peace based on our performance or ‘perfection’. This is a peace (v.15) that can only ever come from being in a right relationship with God. Hemphill says, “Shalom expresses the deepest need and desire of the human heart. In our experience, it means a sense of contentment, a freedom from guilt, and a satisfaction with life itself. There is, of course, a requirement. It means that we must have a pure heart before God and live in obedience with His Word and His plan.” (The Names Of God) This peace can be found as we look to the cross, see what Christ accomplished there, and then look further to His glorious resurrection that fills us with assurance and hope that we are not in this alone, He is risen!
This is the message that I really want to leave you with, that because of not only Christ’s death, but also His resurrection, as Christians we should be people who are filled with hope. It is true what we said at the beginning that we can never live up to this standard but again, we don’t have to! Jesus already has. He has lived these verses in their perfection. He has shown us amazing grace and mercy by taking the punishment that we deserve. And He has given us the hope that we can stand before God, holy and righteous, even as we strive everyday to be obedient and live lives pleasing to Him, not for our own glory, nor in our own strength, but through what Jesus has already done, and the power of the Holy Spirit living in us. What hope this gives us! What passion it gives us to persevere, to run the good race, knowing that we are never alone and that Jesus is already, and will eternally be, our prize! Paul says it better than I ever could in verse 16, “Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives.”