Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another; forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:12-13
Paul tells us to put on compassion, kindness, etc. He doesn’t tell us to ask God to work that in us. It is something we must do. This idea of putting on and putting off has been mentioned before by Paul. In Ephesians 4:22, 24 he commands us, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to “Put off your old self…and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness.”
Earlier in Colossians 3 Paul gave a list of what to put away: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and greed. But wait, there’s more! Anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscene talk and telling lies. I get depressed looking at what I need to put off, just like I would feel if I just tried to stop all of my bad habits and only focused on that.
In Romans 13:14 Paul simply says to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” We are believers and we need to dress like it, and to fight like it. Galatians 3:27 says, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Putting on Christ has already been done for us. But Colossians 3 instructs us to daily put on and put off a lot of things. I like the symbolism, but it gets tricky in figuring out how to do it.
My answer: In Ephesians 6 we’re told to put on the armor of God. We do that in prayer, trusting that as we say each piece it is arming our spirit man with a helmet, breastplate and the rest. Then I am dressed to do battle for the day. We are in a spiritual war. Our battle is not only Satan, but it is against our own fleshly desires that wage war against our soul, as 1 Peter 2:11 puts it. It is a battle to put off anger, wrath, malice and slander and to instead put on compassion, humility and patience. It takes an active response to send away bitter thoughts and resentments and to choose to forgive. In doing that, I am putting on forgiveness.
As I drive to work most days, I pray and consciously put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. I pray through what I know is ahead of me and think of the people I need to talk to or address something with. I pray that God would work His love through me, as well as His wisdom and creativity in situations where I am stuck. When I am consciously pursuing a healthy diet, I must put down the chips and pick up the veggies. It’s a mindset that we must cultivate in both situations.
We belong to God, we are holy and dearly loved, and we must actively take a hold of the life that befits a child of God. Today, put off the habits of the sinful nature. Tell them to get lost. Now, put on kindness, compassion, gentleness, forgiveness and love.