Colossians 3:12-14 (the message)
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
Does that sound like a pretty tall order to anyone besides me?
This has been one of those familiar scriptures to me over the years but I hadn’t visited in a while. I was always sweetly stung by the reminder to forgive as quickly and completely as Jesus has forgiven me. I mean that really says it all, no matter what offense or hurt I’m trying to get past. When I look at my own life and the pit He pulled me from, when I remember the sin and pain I caused and how Jesus so readily washed me clean, there really is no comeback to this command. There is no “But, Jesus…” or “Do you see what I’ve been put through?”
There was a time when I had memorized the wardrobe picked out for me: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline…even-tempered, content with second place and quick to forgive. I must admit that as I was led back over to these verses this morning I felt myself absorbing these words like a dry sponge absorbs water. Oh, I know it’s an extremely tall order. Compassion? Kindness? Content with second place? We may ask how can anyone really live this way? Besides the Mother Theresa’s of the world! This morning I have an answer to offer up…
Yesterday morning as I read the devotion for the day in “Jesus Calling” I was captured by the mention of the extreme measures God went to for us. Here we are, Christmas upon us. I myself am about to get into gear for traveling, visiting, loading and unloading kids and gifts, etc. There will be much food to eat and less sleep to have! A lot of hustle and bustle…good times…but I really want to hold onto the reason we are celebrating…Extreme Measures.
How can God ask me to live a life like the one outlined in the scripture above? How can He expect me to live a consistently (though not perfectly) life of compassion, kindness, humility and ready forgiveness? Doesn’t God see how extreme this is for me? How this kind of living takes so much of “me” out of the equation? Why, yes I believe He does! And the reason God would ask us to live this way, to live in extreme grace in an extremely graceless culture, is because He went to extreme measures to enable us to do so.
My little family took a local hayride last night and looked at Christmas lights. It was soooo cold (at least for NC)! We shivered and sang along with Christmas Favorites and finally at the end of all the blinking snowmen, candy canes and santa there was the Nativity. A symbol of Christmas. The one that makes us pause, for at least a second, and remember what it’s all about. But I would like to end this post with more than a symbol. When we ride by churches or the occasional homes with the Nativity on display we are seeing the extreme measures God went to so we could be together for eternity. Because He loves us. The Creator of all we see… the vastness of space, the depth and breadth of the oceans, the grandeur of snow-capped mountain peaks, the beauty and breathlessness of pink, orange and purple streaks at sunset, the startling crispness of a morning white-washed with a night’s snowfall, the joy that captures your heart when you hear a baby’s laugh…this Creator took on the most extreme measure of all. God committed Himself to live in a human body for the sole purpose of offering Himself up in that body on the Cross. The God who created humanity…who crafted the mechanics and splendor of our existance…lowered Himself to become what He created.
So, when you ask how can God ask me to live a life of extreme love you can rest easy He doesn’t ask you to do anything He hasn’t already done for you. First, you accept the extreme measures God went to for you, in Jesus, and then you open up your heart to all that He is. It’s not by our own strength, good will or best intention that we live in humility or forgive readily. It is always through the power of the Cross…the passion and power and love that was on display from Cradle to Calvary…Jesus is alive and well! And He is the most of Extreme of lovers, friends and saviors.
I pray your Christmas is over loaded and over whelmed with the Extreme love and grace Jesus was born to give.