I know I’m not the first person to stand in my closet wondering what to wear. Some days it is easy and I have an outfit on in no time. Other days I seem to move from one piece of clothing to another with nothing quite satisfying the event, my mood, or my physical needs. (I love heels, but they are comfortable for about ten and a half seconds!)
More than ten times in his epistles, Paul told his readers to put on some quality as if it were a piece of clothing. These include:
- Armor of light (Romans 13.12)
- The Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13.14)
- Incorruption and immortality (1 Corinthians 15.53-54)
- The new man (Ephesians 4.24 and Colossians 3.10)
- The whole armor of God (Ephesians 6.11-14)
- Tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness and longsuffering (Colossians 3.12)
- Love (Colossians 3.14)
- Breastplate of faith and love and the helmet of the hope of salvation (1 Thessalonians 5.8)
Paul was calling his readers to put on characteristics of God. We can do this because, as believers in Jesus, we are new men and women in Him. As we grow, we have the chance to put on the clothing of Jesus.
We can walk into a closet and choose the clothing we will wear. Can we choose to clothe ourselves in virtues just as easily? I believe the answer is yes. Here are some thoughts on how to do so.
When we take the time to pore over scripture, we learn truths about God, the world we live in and ourselves. The Bible is more than a set of instructions that inform us. It is the living word of God through which we enter into personal and intimate relationship with Him. Through it we learn that light is very often used to mean truth. When we put on the armor of light, we are not only arming ourselves with the truth, but we also become much less susceptible to believing the lies of the enemy.
Many years ago, my husband and I gave an older lady a ride to church each week. I had no problem the first few times, but as time went on, this lady displayed a lack of gratitude and social graces. The more frustrated I got, the more understanding my husband was of her plight. I received no sympathy from him. I began praying, asking God for patience and understanding. Little did I know that God would fill me with His longsuffering. When this lady unexpectedly died several years later, I cried. At one point I would have just felt a sense of relief, but praying for God’s patience changed my heart.
I love that Paul tells us, “Over all these virtues put on love, which binds them [compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience] all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3.14) As we put on love, the most foundational of God’s characteristics and the one word that defines who God is, we wrap ourselves in God’s essence. This outer garment gives us the space to practice all the others, to try again when we fall short and to love others and ourselves when we don’t measure up.
I have a tendency to respond with a short, sharp tongue, especially when people don’t understand what I’ve just said. After all, I understand what I just said, why doesn’t everyone else? This is a poor habit and one I have been striving to change … for … I’m embarrassed to say … years. I want to respond to people with grace and mercy, but I don’t always succeed. There are times when I have to pick up the garment of kindness from the floor where I’ve thrown it and resolve to put it back on. In those moments of failure, God doesn’t want us to give up, but to persevere. He doesn’t ask us to have superhuman strength to do this, but to draw upon His strength.
In the face of impatience and hot tempers, we can choose to be kind. In the face of lies and deception we can choose to speak biblical truth. In the midst of trial and heartache we can choose to be longsuffering. Each time we choose to respond with one of the virtues, we follow Paul’s instruction to put it on.