I received an email the other day from a friend up in Maine. He writes: “it seems every time I turn around at home there’s a pair of BIG Brown Love filled eyes staring at me. It makes me wonder; Lord, what did I ever do to deserve such unconditional Love? Cindy you say? Well, sometimes, but no, it’s LUCY! Charlie Brown was right, Stupid Beagle! So I’m sitting home staring at this stupid Beagle when I can’t make a trip and she just kindah blinks those big brown eyes at me, sighs, and wags her tail. She’s actually quite smart, too smart, and very demand’n of my time. I think she’s a little jealous of Cindy too cuz she’ll climb up on the kitchen table to chew Cindy’s stuff. Not foods mind ya, and no one else’s stuff, jus Cindy’s!
She knows when I haven’t paid enough attention to her before I go to bed too. She requires a certain amount of luv’n, before being tucked under her blankets for the night! She WILL prove her disdain to me if I neglect that requirement too. Just as soon as I open the bed room door I know. If she’s at the door wagging her tail, I dun good. If not, she’s on the couch on TOP of her blankets with a “take that!” look in her eyes! I can go to bed at 3:00 Sunday night & get up to a 5:00 Monday morning surprise! Other than that, she can wait 10-12 hours! It’s a hard call sometimes, pay attention to Lucy and sleep a little less, or sleep a little more and clean up a mess! Stupid Beagle!
She knows how bad I want her to come when I call her too. Her standard position is nose to the ground and tail in the air, thinks she’s a hunter. Doesn’t matter if there’s a foot of fresh snow on the ground, she’ll jus make like a snow plow! She can be 10 feet away when I call her and the tail will just wag faster! Doesn’t matter how loud I yell either, but when I start growl’n and my eyes throw fire, she knows it’s time. Well… and here’s the scary part, I got to thinking about that relationship the other day. I think maybe that dog looks at me a little bit like a god… Stupid Beagle! You think maybe the Good Lord has kind of the same relationship with us? Are we as good at being God’s best friend as the dog is at being Man’s best friend? How long did it take you to happily greet the Lord after the last time He scolded you? What kind of mess do you leave for Him when you feel He hasn’t treated you right? How long do you make Him call your name before you pay heed? Are you envious of the things that God has given others? “
Now as I read this note I really began to think about our lives like that “stupid beagle”. I remember when Lucy was born. She was such a cute little beagle with the longest ears I have ever seen. Her ears were so long that when she would drink from the bowl they would come out sopping wet. Lucy was also the smallest in her litter but don’t let her size fool you, she was the notorious ring leader for mischief and mayhem. She could get into so much trouble in such a short amount of time. Kind of like us. You know we were born to sin, it is in our nature, but like Lucy we have to find a new home when the time is right and the master presents himself to us. Lucy was the runt of the litter and nobody wanted her, except her new master. As Christians we were part of a world that was “lost and undone” we lived in the bondage of sin preparing ourselves for eternal damnation until that day when Jesus our master came and took us into his home. What a day that was. We were so happy to have a new master. There were new things to see and do.
But like Lucy, we had some things to learn. Lucy had to learn how to obey her new master. She had to learn what was expected of her and when. She had to learn where she could go and where she couldn’t. She had to learn how to behave around her master, she had to submit to the nourishment that the master provided. She had to learn the difference between mischief and play, and when push comes to shove, she had to learn to come to his summons. As Christians our obedience training begins in Colossians 3:8 where we are told to “…put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:”
We must put off. We must take and distance ourselves from living a life controlled by anger and wrath. Here in Colossians these two words have similar meanings but they express a degree of anger. Firstly, there is the word anger. From the Greek word Orge, this type of anger is the kind where we simmer, we have that slow burning irritability towards someone for something that they might have said or done. And we usually keep it to ourselves. We hide it away and wonder why these people can be so happy when we are so angry at them. It festers within us and is long lasting The second type of anger talked about here in Colossians-wrath, is from the Greek word Thumos, this type of anger is, I would say, the next level of anger. It is explosive in intensity. We would probably use the word rage to describe it. We go from a simmering anger to a boiling over anger. But once it explodes there’s nothing left. Probably, a good example of that would be when someone gets into a car accident, and it’s the other guys fault. They leap out of the car in a rage because of the other driver’s carelessness.
The next item that Paul talks about is malice. It seems that after talking about two types of anger, Paul is talking about one of the consequences or the gradual result of anger. Malice is when we wish to do someone harm and we think and wish for evil things to happen to them. Do you remember 9/11? Our country suffered a blow and we wanted to retaliate. We wanted to strike back at Bin Laden and make him suffer. That is malice.
Now Paul shifts his attention to the things we say. As a Christian we must put off slanderous speech whether it is directed at man or God. We must be able to talk about others without gossiping and with respect. We must also put off filthy communication. As a Christian we have the responsibility and the expectation of others to speak a certain way. We should not swear. Looking back, I think if we get our anger issues out of the way, the opportunities to swear will greatly diminish. But also in general conversation, our words need to reflect cleanliness and should not be full of derogatory or suggestive comments. Our words should be pure, true, and kind. All to often the world judges us by how we speak. If Jesus reigns in our hearts then when we speak the world should hear Jesus speaking through our lips.
I have mentioned the words “to put off” several times. Paul is talking about our old sinful nature. That which we were before we knew Jesus. We are to take it off, like we would an old coat, and put on a new coat. In a song written by the Browders, a Southern Gospel Group from West Virginia, is the best description I can find for putting off the old and putting on the new. In their song entitled “Two Coats” Matthew sings:
Well I’ll tell you the best thing I ever did do. I laid off the old coat and put on the new. Two coats were before me- an old and a new. I could have either but what must I do. The old coat was ugly, tattered and torn. The other, a new coat had never been worn. I’ll tell you the best thing I ever did do, I laid off the old coat and put on the new. The first man was earthly, a man from the ground. We bore all his image, the whole world around. The next was my savior of heaven so fair. He brought me this new coat and now see me wear. Now this coat it fits me. It keeps me so warm. It’s good in the winter, it’s good in the storm. My savior has dressed me, a garment so fair, he gave me this new coat, and now see me wear. I’ll tell you the best thing I ever did do, I laid off the old coat and put on the new.
We have looked back at who we were, now, let’s look at who we are to become. We are to become a new man according to verse 10. The new man is the person that one becomes after accepting Jesus into their life. A new man has new clothes. These new clothes are found beginning in verse 12 which states: “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;”. This verse tells us who we are. We are believers in Jesus Christ and are his chosen, the elect of God. Lucy has a new master, and so do we. As his elect we are holy and beloved. One of our innermost desires should be the pursuit of holy living. We should desire to be more like Christ each and every moment, and by the guidance of the Holy Spirit we will grow in that. But we must obey our master. And as we grow in holiness we must also grow in our love for one another. The next part of this verse talks about how we should act. Bowels of mercies refers to having a compassionate heart. We should treat each other to mercy, just as God grants us His mercy. Remember that mercy is not receiving what we deserve. In essence it is the opposite of judgment where we get what we deserve. Be compassionate to others not only in your heart but in your words and actions.
Next we are told to be full of kindness. In translation this refers to not only being kind, but being gentle. We usually think about being kind as a type of action—being kind to one another. But there are times when we can’t help someone out so what’s on the inside must also be kind and gentle.
Our next garment is humbleness of mind. This one can be difficult at times to wear. What humbleness of mind refers to is humility. The act of realizing who you are and not having a swollen head about it. Letting no haughtiness or self righteousness inflate your ego to the point of bursting. Now this doesn’t mean that you are to devalue yourself but rather understand who you are and the limitations that you might have.
Our next garment is meekness. As a people we have a tendency to have misconceptions about what it is to be meek. We often think about meekness as referring to someone who is timid and weak. Well that’s not the case. Meekness is a quality which refers to having a gentle nature which even when we are stirred up we are still gentle.
Another garment listed here is long-suffering. No, this doesn’t mean that we have to suffer for a long time, rather it means that we must have an enduring patience in the face of opposition. As Christians we are in direct opposition to what Satan wants. We must be able to stand fast in the face of our adversary. When we live a life full of long-suffering then we can protect ourselves from giving into rash decisions which may lead us to sin.
We are also called in verse 13 to be “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” For many of us this is the garment that we don’t forget about, but chose to not put on. We get so caught up in the who’s right, who’s wrong game that we simply chose to be bitter and live a life free from the graces of forgiveness. To forbear one another means that we endure one another when someone sins against us. It is our hope that they will seek forgiveness and as this verse says, when they seek it, we must forgive them. Forgiveness is a huge issue and responsibility for Christians everywhere that is often taken to lightly. For we are commanded in this verse to forgive others as Christ forgave you.
The last garment we are told to put on is in verse 14 “And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” I found it interesting as I researched this that the Greek word used for charity is actually, Agape. That’s love of the self-sacrificial type. So above all these other garments we wrap ourselves in love. This love completes the ensemble and holds it all together, without this love the outfit just doesn’t work.
Lucy is a good beagle. Her master loves her in spite of her little sins. And though she may be chastised for doing wrong she will always enjoy the love of her master. She has grown up into a fine beagle. She knows her training and knows how to obey. We were once like that beagle when she was a puppy. How much have we learned, how much have we grown and how much do we obey? What will our master say to us on the day we meet him face to face. Will he say “…Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”?