Friction within the church might be the result of a failure to follow the dress code.
I’m not talking about skirts and suits versus shorts and T-shirts. I’m referring to “the new robe of character,” as F.F. Bruce puts it.1
Instead of spending a lot of time thinking about our outer appearance, (clothes, hair, makeup etc.), our concern should be the inner attributes of tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. (Col. 3:12 NLT)
How do you get dressed for church?
In the past, I have not given such things as patience and kindness much thought as I dressed for church. My thoughts go to selecting earrings or a pair of shoes to wear. But what would Paul have me wear?
** Tenderhearted mercy.
This trait prepares me to be compassionate toward others, sympathetic and concerned about their suffering. It may be a new health diagnosis, financial burden, or struggle in a relationship, but I am to attentively listen to their story and provide advice or assistance as the Holy Spirit gives me ability. I can always listen and pray.
Dressed in this attribute we are prepared for all encounters.
An ability to mellow a difficult situation taking away the harshness, kindness is similar to aged wine. It’s a description of a person’s disposition rather than their actions.
Dressed in this attribute we are ready for any situation.
“Lowliness of mind” is one description of humility. To walk it out, I don’t think too highly of myself. Antonyms for this word are pride, haughtiness, considering oneself better than others.
Dressed in this attribute we can mix well with all types of people.
This characteristic is the middle of two extremes… unreasonable anger and no anger when reasonable. “It’s a balance born in strength of character.”2
I might demonstrate it by interceding in a thoughtful, helpful manner on behalf of an unborn child or a victim of crime.
Dressed in this attribute, we avoid extreme behavior that is not appropriate.
Am I willing to continue to interact with someone who has done something hurtful? Patience is also referred to as longsuffering. It is to practice self-restraint, carefully considering my response before taking any action. Although I may have the power to avenge myself, I don’t.
Immediately after listing patience as something to wear to church, Paul discusses forgiveness. The following passage accessorizes patience.
“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” (Col 3:13 NLT)
Paul ends his dress code with love. “Above all, clothe yourselves with love.” (3:14a) Above everything else, I am to wear love to church. This agape love is not based on feelings but is an act of the will where I choose to show others favor and goodwill. The result is perfect harmony.
It takes me a little time to physically get ready for church. To date, I haven’t really thought about the spiritual attributes I might need to put on. Although I read my Bible each morning, including on Sunday, the passages pertain to a book I am studying or a chart that details the scripture to take you through the Bible in a year.
But now the Holy Spirit has alerted me to Paul’s dress code. And if you read this blog, He has alerted you too.
1-If you find this dress code helpful, explain why.
2-Which attributes do you need to specifically put on before leaving your house for church? Which are your areas of greatest need?
1-The International Bible Commentary by F.F. Bruce, “Put on the new (Col. 3:12-17). Published by Guideposts by special arrangement with Zondervan Publishing.
2-Definitions of the words translated from Greek to English in Colossians 3:12 are from The Complete Word Study Dictionary edited by Spiros Zodhiates Th.D. published by AMG International, Inc.