– Colossians 3:13
Two Different Kinds of Fruit
The church at Colossae was an ancient city of Phrygia in Asia Minor which primarily consisted of pagan religions, with the population predominantly Greek, but there were about 2,000 Jewish families living there, so there were seeds of a small church there to begin with, and the Apostle Paul wrote to them of God’s expectations, such as to put on, “as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Col 3:12). Those who believe will bear the fruits of believers, because “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Gal 5:22-23), but “the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal 5:19b-21). Paul gives a warning that those who practice those things that they will not be in the kingdom. The Colossians are to “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col 3:5).
Bearing With One Another
When Paul writes that the church should be “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” (Col 3:13), he intends that we be patient, kind, peaceable, humble, and meek in our relationships with “one another.” That’s how we bear with one another’s imperfections, and just how they deal with ours! If we expect others to bear with our shortcomings, we should at least grant them the same grace. It’s only human nature that we’re all going to rub someone the wrong way or they’re going to take what you said differently than from the way you intended it, but genuine brotherly love believes all things (1st Cor 13:7), which means, love give the other person the benefit of the doubt. It means we give them credit where credit is due, but also love believes the best in them, not the worst. I have been on the other side and not given someone the benefit of the doubt, only to apologize to them later. At least I learned a valuable lesson. I’m glad God’s patient and longsuffering with me, so we ought to be likewise to our brothers and sisters, and really, anyone in the world. Christ died for us while we were still His enemies (Rom 5:10), so how can we not bear with those who don’t know Christ. That’s where our compassion for the lost should come in. Remember that we were once dead in our sins too (Eph 2:1-2), and we are not one bit better than they are. God didn’t choose us because we were special. We’re special because God chose us. We’re not better than anyone else; we’re only in a better position than the lost, but only by God’s grace (Eph 2:8-9). For anyone you know that’s not saved; Weep for them, pray for them, witness to them, and leave the rest up to God, but bear with them.
Forgiving and Forgiven
In the so-called Lord’s Prayer, Jesus gives us instructions in how to pray. In it, He says we must ask God to “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt 6:12), so is our forgiving other people their debts conditional on having our debts being forgiven? In other words, if we don’t forgive others, will God not forgive us? I would put it this way; if a believer who’s truly understood just how much they’ve been forgiven and compare it to how infinitely smaller the debt we must forgive others, then we would never have any trouble forgiving anyone. In the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant, the servant received mercy from his master for a debt he could never pay in a thousand lifetimes (Matt 18:21-35), but the servant who owed this other money, which was about a day’s wages and was payable, threated cast this man into prison until his debt was be paid (Matt 18:30). That basically meant with him being in prison and not being able to work, would be a life sentence. This man didn’t realize just how great a debt he was forgiven (like we have been) and demanded too much of the man who owed him precious little, and so refused to forgive him, but this man who was unforgiving, was cast into prison himself. Why, because he refused to forgive as he had been forgiven. If we are really a genuine Christian, should we not desire to forgive our brothers and sisters and those outside the church? That doesn’t mean you have to repeat the same mistake because you might have a trust issue, but it should not be an issue of forgiveness, since we’ve been forgiven so very much, and compared to what we forgive, it is very small in comparison.
People file complaints all the time. They could be complaints about the neighbors or someone speeding in front of their house, and some even end up filing charges or filing a suit because of a complaint, so a making a complaint is certainly not being forgiven. It seems to be almost the opposite, so maybe that’s why Paul said, “if one has a complaint against another [be] forgiving each other.” Paul is writing about two distinct things; “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” (Col 3:13). We covered the subject of bearing with one another earlier, and also about forgiving one another “as the Lord has forgiven you” and me, but hidden in this verse is the complaint against another. If there is a complaint, then we know there must not be complete forgiveness. If there was complete forgiveness, you would expect there would be no more complaints. Imagine God coming back and complaining about the sins we’ve already confessed and had forgiven! Thankfully, God is not like that, but maybe that’s why Paul ties in complaining to un-forgiveness. He makes a good point. If I forgave someone for something they said to me, it’s not fair for me to keep complaining to them or others what they said, because it’s supposed to be already forgiven…isn’t it? Or, is it? You seem my point.
We get to have lots of practice here on earth to live with the saints in the kingdom but also by living with those who haven’t trusted in Christ, at least yet. Elsewhere, Paul wrote that we are to esteem others better than ourselves and treat others with love, dignity, respect, and with all humility. Paul might ask, “How can we not forgive others when we’ve been forgiven so much more?” How can we not bear with one another when the sinless Son of God died for us and to bear our sins, and this was while we were still being ungodly, wicked sinners, who were His own enemies (Rom 5:6-10)?