The Enigmatic Elixir
"Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." – Paul the Apostle
Notice the flow of Paul's teaching. His words begin with a statement about our identity. Life is about being and becoming. The doing flows from the being.
My friend Ted is a novelist and in his most recent story he writes, "When you feel lost, know that it is always because you are covering up your identity as the light with your denial of it. Like hiding your light under a basket."[Ted Dekker, The 49th Mystic – to be released Spring 2018]
We can never cease the quest for our true identity. Paul the Apostle identifies this as our foundation for all of life. After this important assertion he moves on to how life is meant to be experienced in the context of relationships.
In this passage from his letter to the Colossians I believe we discover the enigmatic elixir to eternal life and happiness.
He describes a virtuous clothing that will keep us warm:
"…Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…"
Then points out that without the stitching of love everything falls away… But there are two central ingredients to a life of peace and happiness and they are found blooming in this passage.
The first is forgiveness.
The ability to give forgiveness begins with receiving it.
"Forgive as the Lord forgave you."
If we have trouble forgiving it is often because we lack awareness of our own depravity or because we spend an inordinate amount of time wallowing in our shame and obsessing over our own brokenness.
Richard Rohr writes, "What cosmic hope and direction we were offered! But our calculating minds have a very hard time knowing how to live inside of such abundance. Grace is the consummate threat to all self-hatred." https://cac.org/christ-another-word-everything-2017-04-05/
Williams James has said, "Most people live in a very restricted circle of their potential being."
If you haven't been warmed by the fire of God's forgiveness and haven't experienced the extravagant deluge of grace, then you will live a tight fisted life with those that don't meet up to your standards. Which, by the way, is everyone who comes into your life.
"All sin is rooted in the failure of love. All sin is a withdrawal of love from God, in order to love something else." - Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island
Paul Huston writes, "Christianity asserts that we are made to love God, and when we choose ourselves over him, we choose an anxious half-life that leaves us defenseless against opportunistic evil. Despite our stubborn resistance, God sends us a savior to help us out of this trap of our own making. However, instead of being grateful for the rescue attempt, we crucify him and go on in our self-absorbed way.
Without Christ, however, not only are we incapable of loving God, we cannot possibly love one another on the scale required." - Paula Huston, Forgiveness
Where do you find yourself withdrawing?
Is there something pulling you away from God?
Have you received forgiveness?
Who can you forgive?
What is gripping the ankles of your potential in life?
What is preventing peace?
Perhaps you have heard of Jesus famous words from the cross.
"Father forgive them for they know not what they do."
I wonder if what was happening was that Jesus was looking past their ego constructs and seeing their true identity. Perhaps He was asking God to free them. And at the same time, perhaps Jesus was freeing Himself. He was choosing to die, not as the victim of another’s sadistic scheme, but instead to willingly suffer for the greater good of humanity. In forgiving, Jesus was setting himself free from the power of humanity’s violation.
Will we choose to find our identity not in how we have been violated or perpetrated, but rather in who we are in Christ. We have a light to shine. Let's not let the bushel of unforgiveness cover us up.
(Next week's blog, the second ingredient to peace and happiness)