Revival Is A Reconciling Time
"Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness.
"And let the peace of God rule in your hearts to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him" (Col. 3:12-17).
There has never yet been a revival without individual Christians being reconciled to those with whom they have been at odds. God will not bypass resentment and bitterness to bestow His great blessing of revival. If we are to be truly revived we must deal with such things.
There seems to be much of this sort these days. Almost every church has been hampered at one time or another by unresolved tensions and conflicts. Sometimes tensions exist between church staff members, sometimes between pastors and members and sometimes between members and members. Most of the time the cause of such problems is something very trivial.
How we need to heed the words of the apostle Paul in the verses before us! Here he delivers a ringing call to the Colossians to live in peace with each other.
The Duties He Assigns
As we examine the above verses we find Paul calling his readers to "put on" certain things:
* tender mercies – a heart of compassion,
that is, a heart that is touched and moved by the misery of anothe
* kindness – a mellow disposition which has been freed from every trace of harshness
* humility – a heart that is free from self-love and the desire to assert and promote self
* meekness – a spirit that does not easily take offense
* long-suffering – a spirit that patiently endures provocation without "blowing up"
* forbearance – the grace that enables one to put up with all that is unpleasant and undesirable in others
* love – the supreme grace (1 Cor. 13) which binds believers together. William Hendriksen writes: "Love, then, is ‘the bond of perfection’ in the sense that it is that which unites believers, causing them to move forward toward the goal of perfection."
I have excluded from the above list one of Paul’s phrases so we can give it special consideration. It goes right to the heart of the issue before us. In addition to the above, the apostle calls for the Colossians to forgive one another "if anyone has a complaint against another" (v. 13). In other words, he calls for Christians who on a personal level have been alienated from each other to reconcile.
The Lord Jesus Himself gave some specific and detailed instructions on how we are to go about this. If a fellow Christian sins against us, we are to tell him or her privately how he or she has sinned against us. The person who is approached in this way is to reconcile with us. If he refuses to do so, we are then to go to the next step which is to take one or two more with us. If he still refuses to reconcile, the matter is to be taken to the whole church (Matt. 18:15-17). Jesus’ point is exceedingly clear: Christians are always to be eager to seek and to grant reconciliation. Failure to do so is very serious in the eyes of the Lord.
On another occasion, the Lord again underscored the importance of reconciliation in these words: "And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses" (Mark 11:25-26).
Those who claim forgiveness from God cannot withhold forgiveness from others. If we are not forgiving, we have no right to claim forgiveness. The duties Paul assigns in this passage are very demanding indeed, so much so that we will find it quite impossible to discharge them apart from paying heed to the incentive he offers.
The Incentive He Offers
Paul always bathed every Christian responsibility in Calvary’s love. He does the same here. We who know the Lord are to forgive because He has forgiven us (v. 13). Paul also makes this point in his letter to the Ephesians: "And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you" (Eph. 4:32).
The cross of Calvary takes every hiding place away from those who refuse to forgive. If we refuse to forgive someone because he doesn’t deserve it, we must look at Calvary’s love. The Lord Jesus Christ did not come and die for us because we were or are deserving. He came and died for us while we were ungodly and undeserving (Rom. 5:6-8).
If we refuse to forgive because of the greatness of the offense perpetrated against us, we must look again at Calvary’s love. No greater offense could be perpetrated than that which sinners have perpetrated against God. And yet God took our humanity and in that humanity went to the cross. There He cried, "Father, forgive them…." (Luke 23:34).
If we refuse to forgive because the person who has offended us seems to be vile and detestable in our eyes, we must look to the cross. There God made a way of forgiveness for the most vile and despicable creatures imaginable, those who had thumbed their noses at His law and nailed the very Son of God to the cross.
If we refuse to forgive because we are waiting for the other person to take the first step, we must look at Calvary’s love. Redemption is all about God taking the first step and all the steps. There would be no redemption without that because guilty sinners neither have the inclination or the ability to take the first step toward God.
If we refuse to forgive because it might shatter our pride by requiring us to admit that we are wrong, we must look to Calvary. There the Lord, who had no pride and never did anything wrong, voluntarily stooped in humility and took upon Himself our wrongs. The cross of Christ is ever the antidote for a sour disposition and an unforgiving spirit. If we persist in such things, we only give evidence that we have not studied thoroughly and deeply its lessons.
The Preventive Measures He Proposes
It is interesting that the apostle proceeds from the things that Christians are to "put on" (vv. 12,14) to what they are to "let." He first says, "Let the peace of God rule in your hearts" (v. 15). He then adds, "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly…" (v. 16).
I cannot help but regard these as preventive measures for the very problems the apostle has already mentioned. How are we to avoid a sour, critical disposition? How can we keep our relationship with our brothers and sisters in good repair? How can we avoid getting into a situation in which we need to resolve tension and conflict?
I suggest the answer is in Paul’s two "let’s." We are to let the peace of Christ and the Word of Christ rule in our hearts. The Christian’s purchased possession is peace. Peace with God and peace within from the guilt and condemnation of sin were purchased for him by the redeeming death of Christ on the cross.
Living at peace with others comes as we realize who we are in Christ Jesus. The more we reflect on what He has done for us, the more we shall find His peace dominating and controlling our lives. And the more peace controls us the less we will find tensions in our relationships with others.
We must also let the Word of Christ dwell richly in us. This means we are to submit fully and gladly and with immense pleasure and delight to everything that the Bible teaches. It is not hard to see how this prevents us from having conflict with others. If every believer is making a determined effort to submit to the Word of God, there will be a tremendous unity and very little room for conflict and dissension.
It is also not hard to discern those who allow the Word of God to richly dwell within. It always shows! Those who are filled with the Word of God are people of praise and worship. They cannot help but be. As we know, two things cannot occupy the same space at the same time. One will expel the other. The heart filled with a Bible-produced delight and praise will have no room left for resentment and bitterness.
Let us be mindful of these things as we pray for revival. If we have a fractured relationship, let’s forgive and reconcile, being mindful of our own forgiveness from Christ. And let’s all resolve to let the peace and the Word of Christ so dwell in us that we will be able to avoid the heartache of alienation and the hard work of reconciliation.