August 11, 2019 [Pentecost 9]  Colossians 3:12-17  J.D.Roekle

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 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. 


Let the Peace of Christ Rule

Dear Friends in Christ,

          On July 30, tensions ran high at a Cincinnati Reds-Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game.  Suddenly, in the top of the ninth inning, the Reds pitcher charged the Pirates dugout and started throwing punches.  A bench clearing brawl followed.  Players from both teams rushed to the aid of their teammates involved.  Most of what followed was some pushing and shoving with most of the players trying to break the conflict up. 

          While one brawl is too many, the number of brawls that happen in a season are pretty infrequent.  If my numbers are correct, there are 2430 regular season major league baseball games a year.  Each summer, there aren’t usually more than a handful of brawls during the games. 

          Why is that?  What is it that keeps the peace?  It is the presence of the umpires.  The umpires are the ones who try to ensure that games are run in an orderly way so that things don’t get out of hand.  And for the most part, they are successful in doing so. 

          If you think otherwise, imagine that these games were played without umpires.  Is the runner at first out or safe?  Was the pitch a ball or a strike?  If left to the teams to decide, there would be a lot more tension and confusion.  With the rule of the umpire, baseball games go relatively smoothly. 

          In a world of tension and confusion, the ruling principle of your life is to be the peace of Christ.  You don’t have to look very far to see what happens when the peace of Christ does not rule in a person’s life.  There is confusion about who you are.  There is fear about the future, especially what happens when a person dies.  There is no sense of how to treat other people.  In short, the person who lacks the peace of Christ, lacks direction which manifests itself in that person’s life in various ways. 

          Many look for the peace which only Christ gives.  Unfortunately, many are looking in the wrong direction.  On Friday, Muslims from all over the world have flocked to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.  The event goes through Wednesday.  This is the annual hajj or pilgrimage that Muslims are required to take at least once in their lifetime, if health and finances permit.  The purpose of the event is summarized nicely by the Jerusalem Post: “Two million Muslims gathered at Saudi Arabia's Mount Arafat on Saturday amid the summer heat and regional tensions for a vigil to atone for their sins and seek God's forgiveness as part of the annual haj pilgrimage.” 

          They are seeking the only thing that can give them peace – the forgiveness of sins – but they are finding it in the wrong place.  By taking this pilgrimage, they believe that they are earning the right to be forgiven.  What they are missing is the peace that Christ alone can deliver.

          You have the peace of Christ.  And it isn’t something that you have to or even can earn.  It isn’t something that you have to go out and find.  Instead, it comes to you by faith.  Faith in Jesus who conquered all conflict for you.  Jesus achieved that peace for you by breaking down the barrier which your sin and mine put between us and God with his perfect life and sacrificial death.  The fact that Christ lives again makes peace with God certain. 

          And you can be certain of that peace, because you didn’t find it.  It found you.  Peace found you when God chose you.  He chose you to be his own to live under him in his kingdom in order to serve him. 

          As you live in the peace of Christ, you will be careful about what you wear.  We need to be careful of that, because Paul reminds us that it is still our natural tendency to practice such things as: “sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry,” and the list goes on. 

          We are reminded that Christ died to rescue us from all those things.  Daily, we want to confess where we’ve gone astray and daily we want to receive the forgiveness that only Christ can deliver.  And in so doing we want to wrap ourselves in Christ’s righteousness.  It is Christ’s righteousness that produces in us such things as: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiving each other’s grievances

          And the common thread through all of these things which we are to wear is love.  This love is different from what the world knows.  It is not simply a love that says I want to be your friend.  It is not a love that is based on feelings. 

          The love we are to put on as Christians is found in Christ himself, who loved the unlovable, giving up his very life for us.  And so, true Christian love is unconditional.  It doesn’t say, I’ll love you if all these factors are in place. 

          Instead, this love expresses itself in showing kindness to someone who is in need…no matter who the person is.  This love expresses itself by patiently correcting a child who keeps making the same mistake.  This love expresses itself by forgiving someone who has wronged you by not holding it against them and by not continuing to bring it up.  This love expresses itself by humbly putting others ahead of yourself. 

          When the peace of Christ rules hearts, it becomes evident in our everyday lives.  And the only way the peace of Christ rules our hearts is when the word of Christ lives there. 

          In order for the word of Christ to dwell in our hearts, we need to be exposed to it often.  You see, the word of Christ doesn’t come to us naturally.  Jesus doesn’t reveal it through direct revelation to us.  It comes through reading or hearing what the Bible says. 

          And hearing what the Bible says is a matter of priorities.  Just ask Martha, who had to learn the lesson of priorities the hard way from Jesus himself.  You heard Jesus’ words to her: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” 

          The Lord wants his Word to stay with us.  We are to use it in our daily interactions with people.  We are to express it in our worship, and especially through our music.  Music is a wonderful gift from God.  The music we sing in worship touches the heart, mind and soul. 

          For all that our Lord has done for us, what else can we do, but say thanks.  Thank you, Lord, for choosing us. Thank you, Lord, for your forgiveness of our sins.  Thank you, Lord, for clothing us with your righteousness. Thank you, Lord, for all your gifts to us.  And thank you, Lord, for the peace that you alone can give us.  May it always rule our hearts and our lives!  Amen.