Col 3:12-17 overflows with rich truth. That makes it difficult to explore everything those six verses have for us in a single sermon – even a 50+ minute sermon! The main thrust of the passage is:
1. As recipients of gospel grace…
2. To clothe ourselves with righteous living from Christ…
3. By inundating our lives with reminders of his love.
So my sermon reflected that structure. Unfortunately, that means I didn’t have the opportunity to explore the individual facets of Christlike character Paul brought to light. Some of them are simply listed out, but Paul takes the time to flesh out the last two attributes: forgiveness and love.
Here are three ideas I wish I could have drawn out of the text about forgiveness:
“Forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” This short sentence gives us so much! It defines forgiveness, it shows us how to do it, and it gives us strength to do it.
First, it tells us what forgiveness is. If we must forgive others as Christ forgave us, we must choose to never use that offense as ammunition against someone again. Forgiveness means forgoing the right to use a prior offense for leverage, as a guilt trip, or to tip the scales.
Second, it shows us how to go about forgiving someone: We must choose to absorb the cost of the transgression. Jesus didn’t sweep our transgressions under the rug. He forgave us at great personal cost: the cross. Forgiving someone means bearing the weight of the offense myself.
Last, and perhaps most helpful, this shows us where to get the strength to forgive. At first glance, it might appear that Paul’s trying to guilt us into forgiving others. Quite the opposite! He’s looking back to verse 12 where he reminded us Jesus chose to shower us with grace, made us holy by shedding his blood, and loves us with an unquenchable love. That is how we’re forgiven! So when we look to forgive someone who has wronged us, it’s from that life-giving foundation: I’ve been shown tremendous grace, and I can praise my Savior in my actions by giving grace.
No sermon can fully exhaust the deep waters of any passage of Scripture – even a really long sermon like this one was! These three ideas, embedded inside the larger passage, could be a sermon all by themselves. I didn’t want to pass by this sentence without saying something about its deep beauty and helpfulness.
Now why don’t you take the next step and consider what rich truth can be mined from the next sentence: “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”