Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. –Colossians 3:12
We should never get tired of practicing virtues like kindness and compassion. In fact, they should mark us. In Colossians 3:12, the word “clothe” can be highlighted as an action we must do when it comes to practicing virtue.
To clothe oneself is a deliberate act. One does not simply sit on a chair and expect trousers and shirts to come flying into the air, clasping, sheathing, or buttoning themselves on the legs and limbs of people. No. People must fold, unfold, stretch, and choose to get inside their chosen wardrobe for the day.
As Christians, virtue must likewise be deliberate. We should choose compassion even when the temptation to turn our heads away from others is rampant and convenient. We often think: “Bear another’s burdens? There is already much on my shoulders!” Yet, we choose compassion because it is a mark of Jesus’ strong love. Jesus loved people with a passion. Even the most unlovable in society, the outcasts, received words and actions of compassion from the Messiah. The gospel is full of stories of these; examples in the likes of Zacchaeus, the adulterous woman about to be stoned, the woman at the well, the ten lepers. The list goes on and on. The Bible says this of Jesus: “Seeing the people, He [Jesus] felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). Are we like Christ in His virtue of compassion?
The other virtues mentioned in Colossians 3:12 include kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Are we clothed in kindness? We choose kindness when it is hard to forgive; kindness when harshness seems to be the seemingly appropriate answer for a wrong done to us. Kindness is often overlooked as a virtue, yet it is powerful. With kindness, people who don’t know the love of Christ get a glimpse of His heart. When people think of Jesus, do they see Him as the kindest Person they’ll ever meet? Do they know the kind voice of the Father? We, His children, should reflect His kind heart.
Humility is also something we need to clothe ourselves with. The tendency of the human heart is to be proud. When we are proud, we think of ourselves more highly than what we ought to. Do we clothe ourselves with humility? I find one gauge of humility is to ask myself if I am still offended by another person. If I am offended, I check myself: what part of me is still proud that I cannot seem to forgive the other person? What right of vindication am I holding on to? Do I see myself as “above the person” to the point that I feel I cannot be wronged?
Then, there’s gentleness. A gentle spirit can be smelled even from far away. There is a tendency for people to rest around people who are gentle and to open up to them. It is a gentle spirit that can soothe the wounded heart. Are we gentle? Are our words and actions gentle? It is a gentle God who said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:28-29).” Are we people who reflect God’s gentleness to others?
And finally, there is patience. Patience is one of the hardest virtues. Who likes to wait? Yet there are benefits in waiting. God never does things in slipshod fashion. He always likes to ripen people in their correct seasons. In our basic life situations, we can choose patience, too. Patience allows for us to remember that we cannot control every situation that comes into our lives. We cannot control time. But what we can control is our response to things. How do we act when we don’t get what we want in the speed that we want? Are we clothed in patience?
Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience are good spiritual clothes to wear. If we feel that our hearts are “lacking” the clothing, why not go to the Holy Spirit who knows just how to weave these things into our lives? He can teach us. He is irrevocably committed to transform us into the character and likeness of Christ. The question is: are we willing for the Holy Spirit to do His full work in our lives? He DELIGHTS to work in our lives.
It starts with being deliberate. We can ask the Holy Spirit to teach us His virtues. John 14:26 says, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” Are we ready to do what is good? Can we choose the gentle, wonderful work of the Holy Spirit and say no to our common, fleshly responses? Let us clothe ourselves with virtue, shall we?