Read Colossians 3:15-17
We are relational beings. That’s how God has made us to be – to be people who connect with one another. Even those of us who are introverts still enjoy deep, meaningful one-to-one conversations. That’s what makes these times of physical separation difficult, as they make connecting with one another trickier.
Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. It just means we have to get more creative. Even in times of physical separation, we know God continues to call us to engage with one another. In today’s passage, right in the middle of verse 15, God describes us as “members of one body”, intending this identity marker to be the basis of his counsel to us. Although the Christian faith is personal – each of us have to individually choose to put our faith in God – nevertheless it is also inescapably communal. The New Testament regularly reminds us that we have been saved not merely into a “personal relationship”, but into a family, a household, a body. And as members of one body, we therefore belong to one another, and look after each other.
So what can we do, even in these days of spatial distancing, to look out for each other? Here are 3 suggestions from Colossians 3:15-17:
1. Teach one another. In verse 16, we are urged to let God’s Word dwell richly in our lives. Perhaps that’s why you’re reading this devotional right now, because you wish to let the Scriptures continue to mould your heart and your mind so that it will settle on Christ himself, and saturate our souls with knowledge of his love, grace, kindness and wisdom. That’s fantastic. But notice where the emphasis of verse 16 lies. The word of Christ is not simply to dwell in us as individuals, but amongst us as a community, as we seek to teach and admonish one another. In other words, share the treasure!
So how can you intentionally do that in these times? There are many ways. In verse 16, it comes as we sing together. That’s not quite possible at the moment, but one possibility is simply for us to look at the songs of Scripture together, the psalms, and intentionally discuss them with others in your family, or on your small group WhatsApp.
To extend the application, perhaps you could share these or other helpful devotionals with others. Perhaps you could send a little message to another Christian friend, reflecting and summarising what God has been teaching you today (but don’t be long-winded about it! 😊) Perhaps take advantage of video conferencing tools to make sure you’re still meeting as a small group to study the Scriptures today even as you continue to share both your light-hearted moments and your burdens with one another. And don’t forget, Paul mentions that we should “admonish” one another as well. That doesn’t mean we deliberately seek out the faults of others, but it does mean we should continue to hold each other accountable.
2. Be at peace with one another. In verse 15, we’re to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts”. This could so easily be misunderstood as simply a call to seek inner peace. However, that is not the sense Paul is intending here. The word translated “rule” in this verse is literally a Greek word that means something like “umpiring”. Peace is like the official in a sports game who decides on matters of dispute. That makes sense in context, where Paul has been focusing on how God’s people should interact with one another. So basically, Paul is saying – let the peace of Christ be the referee in your relationships! It’s not that you can’t have convictions, but you shouldn’t be intentionally quarrelsome.
What does that look like? It means in your household, we need to continue clothing ourselves with compassion, bearing with and forgiving one another (see v.12). As we stay cooped up together, it’s harder work as our flaws become more apparent! In online conversation, misunderstandings are easier without the benefit of verbal cues and body language. As we remain isolated, negative thoughts and grudges fester more easily.
So we need to constantly guard against that. That’s where verse 16 comes in again, for it is the message of Christ that frees us from bitterness and allows us to pursue truth and reconciliation.
3. Be thankful for one another. Did you notice gratitude is something that comes up in each of these verses, right at the end? In verses 16 and 17, it is thankfulness to God. In verse 15, it is more general, but given what he’s just said, surely it must include gratitude for one another as well. Perhaps take the time today to think of those in your current household, and what you could be thankful for. Think of other Christians, and take a minute or two to consider what you appreciate about them. Think about your small group leader, and perhaps don’t just think, but even take the time to drop a note of encouragement to him. That makes a world of difference, and will motivate him to care for you even more!
So let’s make sure during this time, we don’t stop looking out for one another. Rather, see it as an opportunity for growth, not just in yourselves, but an opportunity to encourage growth in others as well, whether in word or deed. All this for His glory. Amen.
- Pray that we would not easily retreat into ourselves, but continue to seek opportunities to teach one another, remain at peace with one another, and be thankful for one another. Pray especially for your small group or other Christians, that they might be places or relationships of love, support, kindness and patience.
- Pray for the church to remain united as one body even in these times when they can’t physically gather. Pray that they will continue to be one in purpose, mindset and mission, to be a people purified for Jesus and eager to do what is good (Titus 2:14).