Based On: Colossians 3:12-17
Have you ever walked into a house where someone just finished baking bread? Do you remember the smell when the oven door opens and the bread is taken out to cool? It is a delicious smell and no matter where you go in the house, the aroma seems to follow you. The smell fills the house so that no matter where you go in the house you can’t stop thinking about fresh bread.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. In the same way that the aromas from the kitchen permeate the entire house, let the peace of Christ fill your life. First, Paul describes what it looks like to be filled with the peace of Christ, then he explains how we have that peace.
God chose you from before time began and at baptism placed the peace of Christ in your heart. You are now a holy child of God, loved by God. That will certainly make a difference in your lives. What is on the inside will certainly show on the outside. The Apostle Paul describes how you look to others – he describes the “clothes” you wear on the outside when the peace of Christ rules on the inside. He says, “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Let’s look at these one by one.
First is compassion. Compassion is that thing you feel deep inside when you see someone suffering. Your heart goes out to them. It is what Jesus felt when he saw a lost soul or a person in pain. One challenge we face is that we hear about so much suffering in the news from all over the world it is too easy to become desensitized to the suffering right around us.
Kindness follows compassion. Kindness is what you show when you have compassion on someone else. Kindness is an action that may show itself in many ways, but always seeks to help the one we see suffering.
In order to have compassion and show kindness you must also clothe yourself with humility. Humility is “the quality of not being overly impressed by a sense of one’s self-importance.” It is easy to understand that if you value your own “self-importance” you will probably not go out of your way to show compassion or kindness to others.
Gentleness and patience are next. Many people might perceive these as signs of weakness, but they are not. Instead they are signs of wisdom. Gentleness and patience is the art of knowing when to be firm and when to be flexible so that others grow in their faith.
Near the end of this list of virtues that we wear Paul says, “bear with each other and forgive.” As Christians we all know that we are sinful human beings, that none of us are perfect. Bear with the flaws of others knowing that you have flaws as well. Forgive the sins of others knowing how much God has forgiven you.
Finally, Paul mentions love. This is the trait that runs through all the others. In English the word love has many different meanings, but in the Greek language as Paul writes about love it is very clear that this love is a love that shows itself in actions that are selfless, actions carried out for the good of the one loved. Christ on the cross is the perfect example of this kind of love.
Those are the qualities we find in someone who has the peace of Christ ruling in their heart: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with each other, forgiving each other, and acting in love.
Do you see a problem? When was the last time you exhibited all of those qualities? As much as I aspire to live up to all of those qualities, I often fall far short. Does that mean I do not have the peace of Christ ruling in my heart? No. It means that I am also a sinner. The same is true for you. As long as we live on this earth we will rest in the peace Christ won for us and we will also sinfully wage war against that peace.
But God provides a solution. Not only does he say, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,” but tells us the way that happens is by letting “the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” The word of Christ is that word that tells you about the peace of Christ. It is the word that tells you that because of Christ’s cross you have Christ’s peace. That peace is peace between you and God because your sins are forgiven, every sin of working against that peace, every sin of not living up to those qualities Paul has set before us, they are all forgiven.
When this word dwells in us, when it makes its home in us and is at home in us then the peace of Christ rules in us. As the peace of Christ rules in us we find those qualities in us that the Apostle Paul mentions.
We are told, “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” Not just a little bit, not just occasionally, but richly. In the past my in-laws have made a certain dessert, and we have made it a few times as well. This dessert is only a small round ball covered in chocolate, but it is so sweet and so rich that it only takes a few and I wonder if my heart isn’t beating faster because of the sugar.
In the same way, let the word of Christ dwell in you richly so that it affects your heart – so that you are excited about the peace you have in Christ.
Of course whenever you read God’s Word on your own the word of Christ is making its home in you. But it also works when we hear God’s Word together and as we use God’s Word to interact with each other. Listen to what Paul says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.”
When we remind each other of Christ’s life and death to free us from our sin then we are giving that word of Christ opportunity to dwell in each one of us. This happens as we worship in this sanctuary with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, and it happens outside of worship as we teach and admonish each other in love.
Remember the smell of freshly baked bread? Remember how it fills the house and reminds you constantly of its presence? As the word of Christ dwells in you, the peace of Christ will rule in your heart and you will be the aroma that reminds others of God and draws them to Christ their Savior.